Brilliant Aamer thinks on his feet
Pakistan need to thank Mohammad Aamer for putting those winning smiles on their faces. His promise, his talent, his skills and his dynamic mindset have splashed across this brief series like vibrant colours. Many a burning talent has emerged out of Pakistan and sparked briefly before extinguishing, but Aamer is not a flickering hope. Still only 10 Tests old, Aamer has all ingredients to become the next generation's best fast bowler.
Late on the second day Australia had clawed back into the contest after a gritty partnership between their senior pair of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. Ponting had already notched a half-century and Clarke was on the verge of matching him. On the third morning Headingley was bathed in bright sunshine, often a portent for a fast-emerging Australian dominance.
Equally promising were the dangers Aamer and his new-ball partner Mohammad Asif could pose. Already these two were instrumental in breaking the Australian knees on the first day when they collapsed for 88. Ponting and Clarke walked in doubly stubborn to stamp their authority in front of a 5,000-strong crowd, which had come to witness an imminent result.
Their positive footwork and the eagerness to play forward indicated the Australians' aggressive plan. Ponting was lucky to get away in Asif's first over when he plunged forward against a late outswinger and the thick outside edge flew past the vacant third slip. But a couple of overs later Aamer smartly darted an angled delivery wide across Ponting and, like a magnet, the Australian captain chased it and was caught behind. It was no teaser by Aamer. His thinking mind had alerted him to cast a net that Ponting would fall for in his attempt to go for runs.
Aamer had also understood Michael Hussey's usual method to play as late as possible. So he sent a slower delivery, which pitched on the seam and jumped on Hussey, who was dumbfounded by the resultant edge, which was caught nicely by Umar Akmal at first slip. Perhaps Aamer's uncanny knack to work out batsmen prompted Marcus North, under pressure, to play a straight and short delivery onto his stumps. Those three wickets immediately put Pakistan in a truly dominant position and underlined Aamer's preternatural brilliance to grasp the situation and impose himself.
It was the same on day one when he sensed the need to get rid of the lower order, which had frustrated Pakistan in the second innings at Lord's and played a big hand in the eventual defeat. Immediately after tea he delivered successive unplayable deliveries to Steven Smith and Mitchell Johnson, knocking back the stumps on both occasions. Shane Warne called the Johnson dismissal the "ball of the series". Johnson had lined up to clip the ball, sailing full at his legs, before it swung late and hit the bottom of off stump. It was a stunning delivery.
Wasim Akram could manipulate such gems out of nowhere but mostly with the old ball. Aamer has the ability to dictate at all times in the contest. He gained seven wickets at Leeds, including his second-innings contribution of 4 for 86 off 27 overs.
It is not just his pro-active attitude that stands out. Aamer has the hunger and drive to answer the call of his captain whenever required. An over before the second new ball was up, Salman Butt waved at Aamer, asking him which end he would like to bowl from. Asif was inclined to operate from the Kirkstall Lane End but still wanted to check with Aamer. The youngster did not care and pointed to both sides.
On day two all of his nine overs came from the Kirkstall Lane End. This morning he turned the momentum Pakistan's way from the old Football Stand End. He is not fussy, just hungry.
When Waqar Younis joined the Pakistan team as the bowling consultant on the Australia tour last season he was apparently not happy at Aamer not getting the ball to swing into the batsman. He had not realised that the youngster had only made his international debut less than six months before at the World Twenty20 in England. Possibly the discerning eye in Waqar understood the amazing potential that Aamer has and was eager to let the youngster learn all the tricks quickly.
It is no surprise that six months later Aamer can swerve the ball both ways and with confidence. It was a skill that came to Akram after years of hard work, but Aamer's talent is innate. With time we will see more of his marvels. For now he has left Australia overwhelmed. England are next on the list.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo