May 1, 2002

Inzamam, Imran hundreds put Pakistan in command

LAHORE-Inzamam-ul-Haq (unconquered at 159, 25 fours, 1 six) and Imran Nazir (127) made the most of the placid strip, scoring a hundred apiece and posting an attractive 204 for the third wicket partnership to take Pakistan to a commanding position. At stumps on day one, Pakistan had reached an imposing 355 for 4, and with Inzamam unbeaten, the Black Caps would not be expecting anything but more of the same in the morrow.

The Black Caps, flattened by the Inzamam and Yousuf Youhana onslaught, the last 10 overs with the new ball yielding 66 runs, were finally given some reprieve when Youhana threw it away with one delivery to go for close. Needless shot at a time when Youhana, otherwise in cracking form, should have put down the shutters. Before Youhana's hara-kiri, Inzamam and he, by far the most accomplished Pakistani batsmen, kept one foot firmly on the accelerator, adding 94 runs in a rapid-fire stand for the fourth wicket in only 76 minutes off 112 deliveries.

After having made his hundred, Inzamam went after the tiring Kiwi attack with relentless gusto, clubbing Chris Martin and Daryl Tuffy for three fours apiece in one over. This was exhilarating stuff, more so as Youhana too went for his strokes.

In this first-ever Test series in May in Pakistan, the Black Caps clearly looked out of sorts due to intense heat, with the mercury touching 38 Celsius at high noon. It could have been worse, but breeze in the earlier part of the day and overcast conditions at close definitely made things slightly less intense. So did water breaks after every 10 overs. But it were the Pakistani batsmen who made them all hot under the collar, with some spectacular strokemaking.

In a bid to conserve energy, captain Stephen Fleming kept on rotating his bowlers. He used six of them in all, but none was to get him another breakthrough after the first two wickets, when Afridi went first ball and Daniel Vettori accounted for an in-form Younis Khan, until McMillan got Nazir much later. Martin then got him the scalp of Youhana at the close.

However, by the time McMillan got Nazir, 200-odd runs had already been added for the second wicket, and Inzamam was in full cry at 98.

Inzamam reached his 16th Test hundred by viciously pulling Vettori through mid-wicket for a four. And then went on a rampage, racing to his third score of 150-plus. He looked in terrific form as he belted the ball to all parts of the ground. A good sign for Pakistan, as he was finding it difficult to make a sizable score this year, with the exception of 99 against Sri Lanka in the Asian Test Championship in a lost cause.

But in making this hundred, he looked every inch his domineering self, a class act indeed for whom vagaries of form were only a temporary aberration. Inzamam required 191 balls and 239 minutes, with 14 fours and one six, to post his fourth hundred against the Kiwis. The next 50 runs he made off just 49 deliveries with nine fours. The Black Caps must have rued the dropped chance off him, albeit a difficult one, by Lou Vincent in covers off Vettori.

Before that, Imran Nazir had reached his second Test hundred in only his sixth Test, in the process proving a point to the selectors and critics alike. The 20-year old destroyed the Kiwi attack in his typical swashbuckling style. He needed just 171 balls to reach the landmark, and when he was eventually out to a breathtaking one-handed catch at mid on by Richardson off Craig McMillan, he had made 127 (204 balls, 291 minutes, 18 fours, 3 sixes).

As Imran and Inzamam plundered runs off a hapless Black Caps attack, it seemed that they would make many more than 204, the highest third wicket partnership at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore eclipsing Englishmen Ken Barrington and Mike Smith's partnership of 196 runs way back in 1967. The Black Caps attack seemed resigned to the rough treatment, and the runs were being gathered at will.

Inzamam clobbered Brooke Walker for a six over long, and then swept him to fine leg and pulled the next delivery to mid-wicket for two fours to go into the 90s and bring up Pakistan's 250 at the same time. Imran also flicked him delicately to the long-leg fence for 19 in the over.

But soon after Imran got out; at 261 for three there was to be no respite for the Black Caps as Youhana, already enjoying the best of form, strode to the middle.

All this when the day had not started well for Pakistan, as Shahid Afridi was dismissed on the third ball of the morning by Daryl Tuffey when he went fishing the very first delivery he faced and 'keeper Robbie Hart took his first catch within minutes of making his debut. In walked Younis Khan and along with Imran started to develop a good partnership. Both played some fine shots. Younis got a life on 17 by Matt Horne off the bowling of Chris Martin. He made only 10 more, when he was given caught at first slip by Fleming off Vettori; the television replays showed that it was off the pads. The stand yielded 56 runs.

Earlier, Pakistan skipper Waqar Younis won the toss and decided to bat first; all-rounder Wasim Akram was left out of the eleven with leg-spinner Danish Kaneria given an opportunity as the pitch was expected to be spinner-friendly. New Zealand also played two spinners in Vettori and Walker; the Kiwis also included Mark Richardson, who will partner Matt Horne as opener.