Just over a year ago, Zulfiqar Babar became Pakistan's second-oldest* Test debutant, receiving his first cap when he was 34 years and 308 days old. He had waited a long time for the opportunity, but it hasn't taken him too long since then to make an unforgettable impression. Last week in Dubai, in only his third Test match, Babar sent Australia spiraling to a 221-run defeat with his maiden five-for and figures of 7-155 in the match.

Australia were completely undone by Babar's clever use of the straighter one, and he picks out a ball that went on with the arm and bowled Brad Haddin through the gap between bat and pad as his most memorable wicket. "That was my weapon and I worked very hard on it, since the plan was to mix up balls that turned away with the straighter one that drifts in."

For Babar, playing a match-winning role in the Test gave him an especially sweet feeling since he had been part of Pakistan's team in all three of their losses to Australia in the ODI series, and had been at the other end when Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Irfan failed to score the two runs required from the last over to win the third ODI.

"I am happy that I have contributed for my team," Babar says. "But I would like to say that we were fed up after the defeat in the ODIs. The way we bounced back was good, and all of us looked focused and we got the fruit at the end. We were playing with two debutants [Yasir Shah and Imran Khan] but it both looked mature and it didn't seem like it was their first game."

Babar himself didn't look like he was playing only his third Test, but for an entirely different reason - few others can match his experience, not just in cricket but also in dealing with life's caprices.

Babar made his first-class debut back in 2001-02, for Rest of Punjab against Islamabad. He made a reasonable impact, dismissing two top-order batsmen in the fourth innings as Islamabad sneaked a one-wicket win, but had to wait till the 2007-08 season before he played another first-class game.

Babar's situation - he was playing plenty of Grade 2 cricket within his district, but no first-class cricket at all - may not have been as bad had he hailed from one of Pakistan's established cricketing regions. Instead, he came from the town of Okara, 85 miles southwest of Lahore and classified under the Multan region, which has been administered by one of the most fractured cricket associations in Pakistan over the last decade or so, which has over the last few years been run on an ad-hoc basis, under an interim set-up.

When Babar finally returned to first-class cricket, he slowly gained notice with his left-arm spin. In 2009-10, his third season since his comeback, he took 96 wickets at an average of 16.80, finishing second on the overall wicket-takers' list. He was already past 30, but his bowling couldn't be ignored, and he made it into the Pakistan A squad for their tours of Sri Lanka and the West Indies and also featured among the probables for Pakistan's tour to England. He didn't make the squad then, and had to wait three more years - during which he took 158 wickets at an average of 20.05 in domestic first-class cricket - before he finally got his chance against South Africa. Now, in the absence of Saeed Ajmal, he is finally set to have an extended run in the side.

A man with Babar's first-class record - a bowling average of under 21, and 23 five-wicket hauls, at the rate of one every three matches - might have reason to feel aggrieved that it took him so long to get an international call-up, but he says he never felt frustrated by the wait.

"Although I made a late entry [into international cricket], I am fine with it, and have no regrets," Babar says. "I had a desire to play for Pakistan which always remained intact. There was some opposition at the domestic level, but when I got a chance I made it count. Now there is no opposition, instead everyone is supporting me.

"I never felt that despite playing a lot of first-class cricket I got the opportunity relatively late. I am a professional cricketer and was playing cricket and performing. It's all about luck and timing which is set by Allah who knows exactly when and what to give. So whatever I have I am happy with it."

*Amir Elahi, who was 39 when he made his Test debut, played his first Test for India

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson