| Shoaib Malik in action at the Gaddafi in Lahore on Friday
Lahore: Imran Khan has consistently maintained that Younis Khan’s non-selection on the last tour by India (2003-04) was the biggest reason why Pakistan lost the Test series 1-2. Subsequent performances have shown his assessment has merit.
Consider, for example, Younis’ scores during the three-Test series in India last year: 9, 1 (Mohali), 147, 0 (Calcutta) and 267, 84 not out (Bangalore). Riding the unassuming vice-captain’s epic double, Pakistan won dramatically and drew the series.
On Friday, at the Gaddafi, Younis posted yet another century against India ' an unbeaten 147 (336 minutes, 243 balls, 19x4), his tenth overall. There’s much cricket left, but Pakistan will have to play very poorly to lose from the position he has put them in.
“Younis ne zabardaast innings kheli hai,” was how Mohammed Yousuf (formerly Yousuf Youhana) praised the middle-order stalwart who displaced him as vice-captain. That, according to The Telegraph’s sources, had created considerable friction but time proved a nice healer.
In fact, Younis and Yousuf showed the perfect understanding ' certainly not exhibited by openers Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik ' in collaborating 190 for the third wicket. They’re unseparated with Yousuf (one let-off) five short of a century. He already has 14.
[Speaking exclusively, by the way, Yousuf said: “I’m going to sleep well... Aap fiqr na karen' Anything can happen in life and, so, I won’t have an anxious night...”
Five overs remained when, despite floodlights, the batsmen accepted the umpires’ offer of light.]
With Butt run out by yet another piece of Yuvraj Singh brilliance, as early as the third over, Younis batted almost throughout the day. He made the most of the Indians’ poor length in the morning and, then, feasted on an unprofessional line in the afternoon.
Team India coach Greg Chappell chose to be lenient (“most teams would have struggled on this wicket”), but somebody like Ajit Agarkar can’t be defended. Even veteran Anil Kumble wasn’t effective.
Returning to Younis, besides the massive partnership with Yousuf, he featured in a 124-run stand with Malik. The other day, Inzamam-ul Haq had hoped for “30-40” from the part-time opener. Malik contributed 59.
Asked whether he enjoyed taking runs off India, Younis laughed: “Actually, I enjoy batting in the company of Malik and Yousuf... More than individual scores, though, what’s important is how the team fares...”
Younis revealed that coach Bob Woolmer’s suggestion, during the tour to India, that he treat Kumble like an “in-swing bowler” had helped in taking runs off him almost at will. “Things may change tomorrow,” he cautioned.
Perhaps, but the Pathan is definitely going to begin Day II on a high.