September 12, 2003

Youhana century steers Pakistan to 74-run win

Pakistan 243 for 8 (Youhana 106) beat Bangladesh 169 (Saleh 64, Malik 3-34) by 74 runs

Yousuf Youhana en route to a splendid 106 © AFP

Three quick wickets from Shoaib Malik, including that of the dangerous Rajin Saleh, allowed Pakistan to smother Bangladesh's gutsy attempt to chase down 243, and emerge victors by 74 runs in the second one-day international at Faisalabad. Saleh had threatened, in partnerships with Habibul Bashar and Alok Kapali, to take the game away from Pakistan, whose total was built around Yousuf Youhana's fine 106.

Malik, whose action is the spitting image of Saqlain Mushtaq's, bowled a little slower than Saqlain normally does, holding the ball up in the air, and employing a drifter almost as impressive as Saqlain's. Most of the batsmen repeatedly played too soon at the ball, chipping it up in the air as a result. Before he entered the attack, Bangladesh had looked well on course for their target. Bashar and Saleh had put on 82 for the second wicket, with Bashar enjoying large doses of good fortune in making 25. Kamran Akmal dropped him before he had scored, and then, when he had made 18, Bashar slashed Shabbir Ahmed to third man, where Umar Gul dropped a straighforward chance. He was finally adjudged lbw to Abdul Razzaq, and looked disconsolate as he walked off, raising his bat briefly to the umpire to indicate an inside edge.

It was Saleh, however, who held the key to Bangladesh's fortunes. It is a sign of the progress he has made in his brief international career - and the immense potential he holds for the future - that he was already the most assured of the Bangladeshi batsmen in the shorter form of the game. His 64 was full of dabs and pushes, busy running, and drives powered through the covers on the up. Bangladesh looked most in control when he put on 38 in 43 balls for the fourth wicket with Kapali, after Tushar Imran - why do Bangladesh persist in batting him at No. 4? - threw away his wicket with an atrocious shot.

Pakistan should have sewn up the game well before they eventually did, but the catching was not the only aspect of their cricket that was woefully indisciplined. Malik caught Saleh off his own bowling when the batsman had made 56, but umpire Aleem Dar had called a no-ball. In his next over, he pinned Saleh to his stumps with another no-ball. Saleh had the measure of all the bowlers except Malik, and was finally dismissed by him, coming down the wicket and chipping uncertainly to long-on. Saleh suffered from cramps throughout his tenure at the crease - perhaps an after-effect of bowling nine overs earlier in the day - and this might have had something to do with his dismissal, though the more likely cause of his half-hearted stroke was his inability to differentiate between Malik's offspinner and that deadly drifter.

Pakistan owed their score of 243 in large part to a splendidly paced hundred, fashioned over 40 overs, by Youhana - the next highest score was Inzamam-ul-Haq's 41. Youhana had been in wonderful touch in the first game as well, but was run out in a mix-up one short of a half-century. Today he let none of his team-mates obstruct his progress - even though his partner in a third-wicket partnership of 87 was Inzamam - and went to his hundred off 124 balls, dealing mostly in sweetly timed drives and delicate late-cuts. His first overtly aggressive shot, a six over long-off off Mashrafe Mortaza, came only after he had reached the landmark. He put on a vital 53 for the seventh wicket with Akmal, after Pakistan had slipped to 177 for 6.

Saleh was also Bangladesh's most successful bowler, taking three wickets with his offspin, but it was Mushfiqur Rehman, with 2 for 29 from seven overs of wicket-to-wicket medium-pace, who was the best of the Bangladeshi bowlers. On a wicket that was good for batting but provided some assistance to the spinners, Khaled Mahmud erred by not turning to spin till the 25th over. Even so, Bangladesh's bowling was a huge improvement on the first game, but their batting still does not have enough players prepared to pull their weight.

Chandrahas Choudhury is a staff writer with Wisden Asia Cricket.