Younis and Youhana sizzle
Would this be the day when the wind started blowing the other way? For the first time in this series Pakistan held the advantage, and the men responsible for it were Younis Khan and Yousuf Youhana, the incumbent vice-captain and the man he replaced. They made unbeaten and untroubled centuries as Pakistan ended the second day of the Kolkata Test strongly, at 273 for 2, still 134 behind. With eight wickets in hand on a pitch that did not help the bowlers at all, the deficit seemed paltry.
Younis should not have been playing this match, according to many critics. His elevation to the vice-captaincy was criticised on the grounds that he could not hold his place in the side, his performance at Mohali was lambasted and held up as proof that he couldn't cut it at this level. Well, cut it he did. And pulled it and drove it and flicked it and glanced it as well.
Younis eschewed risk but not attack. He was quick to rock back or lean forward when the bowler erred in length, and clinically punished the bad balls that came his way. He let many balls go outside off; he played late and close to his body; but he gave it a whack when it deserved one. The pitch didn't help the bowlers at all, and neither did Younis. Or his batting partner.
Youhana, except for a brief period in the evening when he had an intriguing contest with Harbhajan Singh, played fluidly, with delectable strokes on both sides of the wicket. It was an innings of class and character, of finesse and fortitude, and of other such alliterations that you may wish to devise. He slowed down towards the close of play, but brought up his century with a flourish: a four through midwicket off the last ball of the day.
The morning had begun well for Pakistan, but after they took three early wickets, the last-wicket pair of Harbhajan and Kumble batted with enterprise, scoring at more than four-an-over without ever moving into slog mode. The Indian innings ended when Harbhajan was lbw to Razzaq for 27, but crossing 400 was an important psychological milestone.
Pakistan's openers seemed less assured. Taufeeq Umar was out of his depth, and was dropped twice in the slips before looping a short ball from Lakshmipathy Balaji meekly to midwicket. Shahid Afridi hit a few crisp boundaries, but the inevitable miscued hoick came, off Irfan Pathan's bowling, and was easily caught by Sachin Tendulkar at mid-on.
Then came two men who would be captain, and took responsibility.
Karthik run out (Khalil) 28 (345 for 7) Tried to steal a single that wasn't there, beaten by a direct hit.
Balaji b Afridi 3 (357 for 8) Beaten and bowled by a quicker googly.
Pathan c Younis b Kaneria 8 (363 for 9) Lovely bat-pad catch by Younis at silly point after Pathan played forward.
Harbhajan Singh lbw Razzaq 27 (407 for 10) Trapped on the crease.
Shahid Afridi c Tendulkar b Pathan 29 (35 for 1) Mistimed an attempted hoick, caught at mid-on.
Taufeeq Umar c Harbhajan b Balaji 18 (70 for 2) Looped up a short ball on his body towards midwicket, good overhead catch taken.