December 7, 2000

Centuries by Inzamam and Youhana raise Pakistan to a commanding position

The 1st day of the 3rd and Final Test between England and Pakistan at Karachi was a day of absolute brilliance for Pakistan's batting generally dubbed as "suspect". After losing 3 early wickets for only 63 runs, Inzamam ul Haq and Yousuf Youhana lifted the innings to end the day with a credible 293 for 3 on the board.

The match started on a pitch said to favor the spinners but surprisingly Pakistan dropped off spinner Arshad Khan in favor of young Imran Nazir to strengthen the batting. In the second change speedster Waqar Younis replaced Wasim Akram a super star on decline, keeping the balance in pace bowling intact. Shahid Afridi retained his place in the side but was relegated to 7th position in the batting order. England made no change in the side that played at Faisalabad.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat amidst a scanty crowd expected to build up later in the day. Saeed Anwar having recovered from illness opened the innings along with Imran Nazir but did not stay for long. He was trapped LBW by Darren Gough on a remarkable delivery. The 1st wicket fell at only 8 runs on the board. Saleem Elahi came in and thrashed Andrew Caddick for 1st boundary of the day.

An unusual phenomenon came to be seen when the new ball having disfigured as early as the 9th over had to be changed. . Against all expectations the wicket proved to be helpful to pace bowlers, who claimed all the 3 wickets that fell before lunch. Even a stock bowler like Marcus Trescothick made the short work of a promising batsman like Imran Nazir when Pakistan was at 44. Saleem Elahi who was shaping quite well was their 3rd victim, getting bowled through the inside edge off Andrew Caddick. Pakistan was 3 down for 64. At lunchtime the scoreboard showed 71 runs scored in 25 overs.

While Saeed Anwar was out on a perfect delivery, the other two batsmen had literally thrown away their wickets. The tendency of excessive flashing before grafting the innings was responsible for their ouster. The session was fully dominated by the England pace bowlers. The highly talented pair of Inzamam ul Haq and Yousuf Youhana were now at the crease with all the expectations resting on them.

As the game resumed Youhana pulled Trescothick to fine leg for a four. There appeared a radical change in the pattern of the game. Instead of the bowlers, the field was now dominated by the batsmen. With the two batsmen well in control of the game the 100 of Pakistan's innings came in 38 overs. England tried almost all the bowlers in its armory but they failed to create any impact on the batsmen. Hitting every loose ball to the boundary, the two batsmen compensated for the earlier loss of 3 wickets.

At tea break Pakistan was 160 for 3.With unflinching courage and determination Inzamam (66) and Youhana (31) build up a partnership of 96 runs, raising Pakistan to a position of respectability. The 30 overs bowled during the session yielded 89 runs including a furious spell of batting in which the two batsmen plundered 23 runs in 11 balls.

With a feast of strokes all round the wicket that delighted the small crowd composed of a few hundred enthusiastic spectators, Youhana completed his 50 in the 61st over while 200 of the Pakistan's innings was hoisted in the 63rd over. By adding another 14 runs to the total, Inzamam-Youhana partnership crossed the 150 runs mark. With the runs mounting gradually, Pakistan was assuming a happy position

While the batsmen were continuing to score runs undeterred the bowlers were also receiving their due share of assistance from the pitch. Besides the spinners extracting adequate spin from the track, the speedsters were also deriving a good amount of reverse swing. Youhana brought joy to the crowd when he came down the pitch to hit a mighty straight six to Ashley Giles. At the other end Inzamzm having entered the 90s was heading towards a century that he very much deserved.

With a scintillating drive to extra cover boundary off Salisbury, Inzamam posted his magnificent ton, his 12th in 70 tests. With an average of 85, Karachi proved to be Inzamam's hunting ground. His century also brought the 250 of Pakistan's innings. Just as Youhana was eagerly waiting to complete his century, England took the new ball. It had no effect on the batsmen. While Inzamam continued adding to the total Youhana safely rode to his 5th century in test cricket, with a drive to the 3rd man boundary off Caddick.

The two batsmen commanding the game with a flourish-raised Pakistan's total to 292 for 3, when the game ended for the day. Lifting it from a precarious 64 for 3, the two warriors raised Pakistan to a position of utmost respect and dignity. By scoring sparkling centuries and continuing to hold the crease, Inzamam (123) and Youhana (104) almost demolished England's bowling arsenal.