Younis puts Pakistan in charge
Pakistan 298 for 4 (Younis 124, Inzamam 79*, Farhat 72) lead Sri Lanka 208 by 90 runs
When Younis Khan replaced Asim Kamal for the second Test, there were many questions asked of him. Today, in a calm, unhurried fashion, he answered them with a century that showcased his pulls, drives and glides, and made Sri Lanka's attack look ordinary. Younis stood at the crease for nearly the entire day, comfortably handling anything Sri Lanka's seven bowlers could come up with, and it took an inspired catch to finally dislodge him on 124 (284 for 3). By then Pakistan had taken the lead, and Inzamam-ul-Haq was still going strong on 82. This day had been Pakistan's from the morning, for they saw Chaminda Vaas and the others struggling, pounced on the freebies, and scored more in the first two sessions than Sri Lanka could all day yesterday.
"The team carried me," said Younis later, dedicating his hundred to Inzamam and Imran Farhat, who coolly accumulated runs and played around him. He played sensibly, as his captain had asked of the team before the Test began, and in doing so he gave Pakistan a clearer shot at levelling the series. His rock-like presence proved discouraging for Sri Lanka, because nothing could get past his bat. But he was fortunate, for a number of leg-before appeals were turned down. Still, goaded on by Inzamam and Farhat, Younis remained unflustered, and hit balls when they asked for it, and found gaps with unerring accuracy.
Yesterday, the bowlers were in charge: today, it was the batsmen's turn. The difference was discipline. Abdul Razzaq and the rest put the ball on a spot, letting the pitch do the work, and Sri Lanka crumbled for 208. Vaas and Dilhara Fernando tried too hard, and were taken apart for many runs. Pakistan ambled to 298 for 4. The morning session was Sri Lanka's best chance of grabbing the initiative, but Farhat's and Younis's positive batting resulted in Pakistan being 136 for 2 at lunch.
Farhat was quick to drive full deliveries, and his hits rarely went to the fielder. After one emphatic cover-drive off Vaas, he hooked the next ball, a short one aimed at his head, to the fine-leg fence. For a while, no matter where the bowlers pitched it, they gave away runs. Vaas had him later, when he finally got his bearing right, but by then the damage had been done.
Inzamam inflicted more pain after the batting delights of the morning. He was always in control, carting spinners over the infield, and driving faster bowlers with an angled bat. Simple pushes raced past despairing fielders, and runs were taken comfortably. His reputation as a slow runner meant his end was always targeted for run-out chances, but he always made it home with time to spare. Inzamam has been batting with greater consistency lately, and his fielding and running have improved considerably too. Yesterday's exertions in the field displayed his athleticism, and today his running was decisive and alert. Without risking too much, he backed himself to take two where he would usually run only one, and he ran hard for Younis's runs as well.
Pakistan were clearly the better side today, even though Younis edged Rangana Herath to Thilan Samaraweera at slip, and Vaas dismissed Afridi later in the day. They went past 208 in a manner that showed they were in control. Barring an unforeseeable Sri Lankan fightback, tomorrow is when Pakistan shut them out of the game.