“I only know that Pakistan are favourites and we will win the World Cup” Asif told PakPassion.net. “The training camp has been very good preparation for all of the boys. Yes it’s been hard work, but I believe it will definitely help ahead of the World Cup in the West Indies. The preparation for such an important tournament has to be spot on.”
Mohammad Asif completed a career-best six-wicket haul as part of Pakistan’s broader demolition of Australia that called into question Ricky Ponting’s decision to bat first on a Sydney green-top. In union with Mohammad Sami, who dismissed Australia’s top three batsmen before the first drinks break, Asif exploited the heavy pitch and atmospheric conditions to full effect to rout Australia for 127 – their second-lowest total batting first at the SCG and worst at home since 1996.
Five years have passed since Shane Watson and Mohammad Asif made their Test debuts at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Despite inauspicious outings – Watson fell over delivering his first ball, Asif failed to take a wicket in either innings – great things were expected of the duo by their respective nations, both of which had invested much time and many resources into their development.
This week, Watson and Asif return to the SCG having managed just 14 further Tests since their initial Sydney experience. Injuries, role realignment and, in the case of Asif, drug indiscretions have severely disrupted what might have been a prosperous few years at a time when both teams were desperately attempting to unearth a new generation of superstars. This certainly wasn’t in the script.
December 26-30, 2009
Start time 10.30am (23.30 GMT)
It’s hard to know what to expect from a contest between the team that has played the most Tests over the past two years and the side that has played the fewest. Australia’s hectic schedule means they’ve played 27 Tests since this time in 2007, while Pakistan’s home circumstances have limited them to eight Tests in the same period. Australia are coming off a 2-0, though tightly-fought, series against West Indies. Pakistan have just drawn 1-1 in New Zealand.
Start time 12pm (2300 GMT)
If this series could be a template for all cricket contests over the next decade, we might be in for fun times; so cruel has been the bat’s rule over the sport over the last decade. Bowler-dominated series have become increasingly rare, and though they are generally to be found in New Zealand, even that trend has been slowly giving in to the inevitability of the willow.
If Pakistan are not to go another three years and 12 Tests without a win, much will rest, as it has always, on their bowling. The very shape and variety of this attack, the threat of wickets alive in each of them, did for New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, taking Pakistan to an ultimately comfortable 141-run win to level the series, going into Napier. Mohammad Asif and Danish Kaneria were the heavies this innings, but at all times Mohammad Aamer and a luckless Umar Gul were chomping at the bit behind them.
Two reasons emerged from the Basin Reserve for Test cricket to live long and live fruitful. Mohammad Yousuf first reminded us, in this age of Virender Sehwag and Tillakaratne Dilshan, that there was once another way to bat in Test cricket, his patient, educated 83 enabling Pakistan to set New Zealand 405 for victory. And when the chase began, the genius of Mohammad Asif torpedoed it, in a typically cunning and persevering ten-over new-ball spell of Test virtues. At the end of it all, Pakistan stood on the brink of their first Test win in 12 matches and nearly three years, New Zealand staggering at 70 for 3.
It’s a venue that Pakistan’s bowlers have enjoyed more than those from any other side over the last two decades, and they celebrated the Basin Reserve’s fiftieth Test in fitting style, destroying New Zealand’s top order with another clinical performance that left them superbly placed to level the series. After extending their first innings to 264, thanks largely to Kamran Akmal’s enterprising 70, the bowlers immediately got down to business, exploiting the conditions and the huge flaws in the techniques of the New Zealand batsmen, bundling them out for 99 and taking their overall lead to 229 by stumps.
Pakistan paceman Mohammad Asif celebrated his international cricket recall with three vital wickets to have New Zealand at 276-6 at stumps on the first day of the first Test here on Tuesday.
Only a fielding lapse denied him a fourth wicket as New Zealand struggled through the first day after being sent into bat in reasonable conditions.
Daniel Vettori escaped a golden duck in one of three dropped catches that proved costly for Pakistan and allowed New Zealand to build two solid partnerships and recover from a first-ball dismissal.
Mohammad Asif’s return to international cricket will be temporarily derailed as the Pakistan board clarified that he will not be travelling with the team to Abu Dhabi and Dubai for the ODI and Twenty20 series against New Zealand in November.
Asif was deported from the UAE last year, having spent 19 days in detention at Dubai Airport, after he was found to be in possession of a small amount of opium. Though criminal charges were not pressed – reportedly after high-level contacts between the government of Pakistan and the UAE monarchy – the court order called for his immediate deportation and banned him from entering the UAE until further notice.