Pakistani fans breathe easy. Mohammad Abbas is confident he will not fall off the rails as so many promising Pakistani fast bowlers have before him. Abbas has made a record-breaking start to his Test career, but fans have been down this route before.
In men such as Mohammad Zahid, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – to name but three – they have seen rare talents emerge, sizzle all too briefly and then, for various reasons, disappear or fade away.
On Wednesday, Abbas completed a five-wicket haul in Abu Dhabi that was instrumental in dismantling Australia for 145. That included a 50th wicket in just his 10th Test, the joint second-fastest Pakistani to the mark. It also means that as his figures stand currently, he has the fourth-lowest bowling average ever (15.94) for bowlers with at least 50 Test wickets.
He has taken wickets against all opponents and in all conditions so far, though his bowling this series, in conditions that don’t traditionally suit fast bowling, has been a revelation still.
Better still, he comes across as a fairly straight-laced character.
“I have played first-class cricket and a lot of things have happened before my eyes,” he said. “I suffered hardships in my life so my focus is on cricket and that has made me mature.
“My focus is only to play cricket and focus on my fitness. I want to keep my feet on the ground. That has been my life. Right or wrong I know where to go.”
A number of comparisons have already been thrown up, Asif lead among them, but also similar operators such as Vernon Philander. The South African had 63 wickets in his first ten Tests though they were played in South Africa, New Zealand and England – countries where bowlers will get reasonable assistance.
By contrast, Abbas’ career has been a tour of fast bowling graveyards. Seven of his ten Tests have been in West Indies and the UAE. So far, that has not made a difference to his approach. Right lines, right lengths and whatever seam movement is on offer. Most impressively he has been able to extract movement even on this Abu Dhabi surface, to a degree rarely seen.
“There are different conditions, different pitches, whatever you get you need to focus on your bowling,” he said. “I mould myself according to that. I see who is the opponent and then focus on my bowling positions.”
He is on course to make this series one of the most successful ever for a pace bowler in Asia. His 12 Australian wickets have come at a cost of just 9.83 each, which leaves only Chaminda Vaas’ 2005 series against the West Indies ahead of him.
That has drawn praise from his opponents who could be forgiven for preparing for spin before this series and not medium-pace.
“The simplicity of his plan to just bowl at the stumps with nice straight fields, limit your scoring, that’s been his real strength,” Aaron Finch said. “He’s just very simple, very good, but nothing we can’t overcome in the second dig.
“I think it’s nothing that [we] haven’t seen before. But I suppose just a little bit of seam there, particularly to new batters, is so important. I saw him coming wide on the crease to the left-handers, seaming it across them, then around the wicket, and that’s the most difficult ball to face, if someone’s angling them in at the stumps, and we know that he’s always there or thereabouts on the stumps, he doesn’t go over the stumps, he doesn’t miss them too often, so I think that does have its challenges.”
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.