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January 21, 2006
If Pakistan have to ponder the Virender Sehwag question, then it can be equally said of India, as they have Younis Khan to consider. Today's fifty was his fifth fifty-plus score against them in the last six innings - the run includes a double hundred and two big centuries. In five Tests including this one, he has nearly eight hundred runs against them and an average comfortably over a hundred.
In particular, his record against spinners is impressive as centuries against a Muralitharan-led Sri Lankan attack attest to. He handled Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble as he has done in the recent past; quick to pick up singles when they bowl tight, punishing when they stray and always composed. "In my earlier years I happened to play a lot of spinners, both leg-spinners and off-spinners. That is probably why I can handle it quite well but they bowled well at times."
Younis also praised the other Indian seamers, in particular the debutante RP Singh, who also took his wicket. "He is a good bowler and he has a bright future. But I thought Pathan also bowled well and the other bowlers really tried hard."
Younis was keen to assert, on another day when Pakistan scored at comfortably over four runs an over, that the batsmen had played their part. "I will not blame the bowlers and say that we batted very well. We won a good toss today because it can make a big difference here. We played well today and although we lost four wickets there were some good partnerships in it. They played a five-man attack which was a good move and we did lose four wickets but despite that, I thought we did very well."
Hefty middle-order contributions notwithstanding, both Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik will rue not cashing in after both had made a good start. Malik's dismissal in particular, leaving his bat upright while ducking a bouncer and providing an edge to first slip, was a poor one. But Younis, as Bob Woolmer did last week, defended Malik and the opening combination.
"The opening pair of Butt and Malik provide us solid starts at least. Before we used to get smaller starts of 20-odd but we are now doing much better with these two. With the Kookaburra ball it is essential that the new ball is seen off and Malik is doing that with Butt. He is a good player and he doesn't need to prove anything. We shouldn't put pressure on him because he is doing a good job."
Younis refused to comment on the surprising exclusion of Rana Naved-ul-Hasan in Pakistan's line-up but did at least have some praise for the pitch. After the Gaddafi Stadium came in for much criticism last week for its lifelessness, Younis said this pitch might offer a little more to the bowlers. "The wicket is good and it is a little double-paced. Some are going through lower, some aren't and it isn't as easy as the Lahore track.
We need to have another good session in the morning tomorrow to take advantage of the position we are in, score quickly and take it from there."
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