December 8, 2000

Inzamam, Youhana revel in hitting centuries

Karachi, Dec 7: Defying England's bowling Inzamamul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana cracked scintillating, unbeaten centuries on the opening day of the third and final cricket Test at the National Stadium here on Thursday.

Inzamam returned unconquered on 123 and Youhana was undefeated on 104 as Pakistan recovered from a precarious 64 for three to finish at 292 for three after electing to bat first on a placid and flat track.

Inzamam, the gentle giant from Multan, clobbered 18 thundering boundaries in his 12th career century while Yousuf continued his magical form in the series by belting 13 boundaries and a six in his fifth Test hundred and second in three Tests.

Inzamam had been occupying the crease for four minutes over five hours during which he received 223 deliveries. Yousuf faced 211 balls in his 269- minute vigil under hot conditions and before empty stands.

The two teammed up after Pakistan lost its three frontline batsmen to poor strokes.

But they not only repaired the damage, they placed Pakistan in a position from where they should take advantage and try to add as many runs to get themselves in a situation from where they can dictate terms.

The two batsmen were in terrific form in the second and third sessions when they thrashed the England bowlers. The two added 89 in the afternoon session and then put on a 132 in the evening.

Inzamam struck an exquisite cover drive off Ian Salisbury to complete his second century at the National Stadium in succession and third against England. Yousuf Youhana ruthlessly cut Andrew Caddick shortly before close to reach the three figures.

If it was Inzamam who held the England bowlers by the scruff of their necks during the second session while scoring 57 runs, it was Yousuf Youhana's turn to punish the tourists in the last session when he added 63 runs to his name with the assistance of 10 boundaries and a six.

Their unbroken 228-run fourth wicket stand in 269 minutes is also a new partnership record for the fourth wicket against England in Pakistan. They bettered Mushtaq Mohammad and Javed Burki's 153- run stand at Lahore in the 1961-62 series against Ted Dexter's men.

It was also a special day for Inzamam who when reached 79, became the first batsman this year to complete 1,000 Test runs.

It was a worth watching partnership between the two players of contrasting experiences. Inzamam was playing his 70th Test while Yousuf was in his 27th match. Like a matured professional, Inzamam was there talking and guiding his young partner and passing on tips from his rich experience. It were Inzamam's scorching shots that took some of the gloss off Yousuf's innings. He drove with authority and pulled with conviction.

The hallmark of his innings were three sizzling boundaries in four balls from Salisbury who is very fortunate to be playing in this Test despite having taken just one wicket in two Tests.

Saeed Anwar, Imran Nazir and Salim Elahi must be thankful to the two batsmen to cover their poor shot selection that results in their dismissals.

Saeed tried to play from his crease in the fifth over and was pinned in front of the wickets by Darren Gough. Imran Nazir, playing his first Test of the series, failed to capitalize from an opportunity to depart the following over to the same over-ambitious shot.

After being dropped by Andrew Caddick at third-man in Marcus Trescothick's first over, Imran hit a juicy over-pitched delivery from the same bowler into the hands of Ashley Giles at covers.

Salim Elahi was probably carried away by the good series he has had so far when he tried to play Caddick's first delivery of the second spell away from the body and ending up dragging it on to his stumps.

Earlier, Alec Stewart passed a tennis elbow test which allowed England to name an unchanged team for the third straight Test. Pakistan, on the contrary, made two changes. Wasim's withdrawal afforded an opportunity to Waqar Younis to prove that his exclusion in the previous games was unjustified.

Pakistan's combination for the Test was, however, mind-boggling. It was a cowardly combination with emphasis on strengthening the batting order, indicating that the objective was to first save the game.

Pakistan picked just three specialist bowlers in Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq and Danish Kaneria while allrounders Shahid Afridi and Abdur Razzaq will be the back-up bowlers.