His delivery to remove Michael Clarke on the opening day of the second test at the SCG, between hosts Australia and visitors Pakistan, was a throwback to the swashbuckling Asif of old. Around 6 years ago, before the IPL, before doping scandals and niggling injuries, there was a bowler whose ability to move the ball just outside off with unnerving accuracy, had him compared to the legendary Glenn McGrath.
Now, some years on, Mohammad Asif appears to be back to his old slinky way, cruising into the crease before wafting his arms to permit the ball to land dead on its seam, leaving the batsmen perplexed as to which way it would move. Indeed, Clarke was just one of six Asif Australian middle to lower victims who, thanks largely to Mitchell Johnson, were just able to reach a total above three figures.
For all the dashing brilliance of strike partner Muhammad Aamer and new middle order sensation Umar Akmal, the return of Asif to the very top of international cricket, at the home of its most successful nation, will be a relief to many of green and white orientation. Before the series down under began, Asif, through his exploits in neighbouring New Zealand had already pushed himself back into the top 5 of the ICC’s test rankings. With a performance like this, and surely more to follow, it will only be a matter of time before he is pushing Dale Steyn for the top spot.
However, as is the nature of Pakistan cricket, exemplified by their ability to lose the Sydney test from a position of firm dominance, none can be overly sure of whether Asif, like the rest of the team, can keep it together. For now though, the mere sight of him uprooting the off stump, should be enough for fans of Pakistan, and strike bowler appreciation societies the world over.