March 1, 2000

Younis's century on debut keeps Pakistan hopes alive

Farhana Ayaz

Sri Lanka chasing 220 for victory:

Rawalpindi, Feb 29: Debutant Younis Khan imprinted his name into history by notching a workmanlike century in a record ninth wicket partnership with Wasim Akram as Pakistan staged a resilient but belated fight back against Sri Lanka on the fourth day of the first Test at the Pindi Cricket Stadium here on Tuesday.

But despite Younis becoming only the seventh Pakistani to score a century - 107 - on Test debut, Sri Lanka are favourites to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series on the final day tomorrow.

Marvan Atapattu (6) and skipper Sanath Jayasuriya (5) saw Sri Lanka to 11 without loss in pursuit of a target of 220. On Wednesday, the tourists will have 90 overs to score the remaining 209 runs with all wickets intact and Pakistan's bowling attack depleted in the absence of Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq.

However, Younis Khan was the star on Tuesday as he led Pakistan's gallant fight back in the company of Wasim Akram. Together, the debutant and the old campaigner churned out 145 for the ninth wicket in 195 minutes to eclipse the previous best of 127 against Sri Lanka by Haroon Rasheed and Rashid Khan at Karachi in 1981-82. The partnership boosted Pakistan's second innings score to 390 all out.

Younis, the 22-year-old right-hander, came to bat when Pakistan were still two runs short of wiping out the first innings deficit of 171. His magnificent 107 in 322 minutes was chiefly responsible of extending the match into the last day.

Pakistan's cause was also helped by unprecedented Sri Lankan fielding lapses. As many as three catches were missed, including one of Younis Khan when he was 42. Resuming at the overnight score of 154 for four, Pakistan lost nightwatchman Waqar Younis to a superb reflex catch on his follow through by Chaminda Vaas in the third over of the morning.This brought Younis to the crease. He got off the mark a boundary off Vaas. The debutant, however, survived some anxious moments against off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

But, while Younis grew in confidence as his innings progressed, wickets kept tumbling at the other end till the incapacitated Wasim Akram arrived in the middle with Yousuf Youhana as his runner in the second over after lunch.

Youhana, who added only 14 to his overnight score of six, was caught at silly point off Muralitharan. The second new ball, which was taken after nine overs ofit becoming due, saw the departure of Moin Khan for 10. Moin was given out leg-before-wicket while offering no stroke to Vaas.

Younis and Abdur Razzaq carried the score to 230 for seven at lunch. But soon afterwards, Razzaq was caught behind offleft-arm pacer Nuwan Zoysa without adding to his tally of three. Wasim Akram enlivened the atmosphere as the former skipper entertained the crowd with some dazzling strokes, in the process giving his young partner sound support.

The afternoon session produced 97 runs, the highest in the match so far, as Pakistan went to tea at 327 for eight. Younis, who had earlier completed his 50 off 96 balls with seven fours, proved his undoubted talent when he reached the coveted three-figure mark with a couple off Pramodya Wickremasinghe through mid-wicket. His 100 came off 224 balls in 292 minutes with 11 delightful fours.

He, thus, became the 66th member of the exclusive club and the the third Pakistani batsman to mark his debut with a century at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, following Ali Naqvi (115) and Azhar Mahmood (127) against South Africa in 1997-98.

Other Pakistanis to score a century on Test debut are Khalid Ibadulla (166 against Australia at Karachi, 1964-65), Javed Miandad (163 against New Zealand at Lahore, 1976-77), Salim Malik (100 against Sri Lanka at Karachi, 1981-82) and Mohammad Wasim (109 not out against New Zealand at Lahore, 1996-97).

Muralitharan, who bowled 54.1 overs was rewarded for his perseverance, when he had Wasim Akram caught at silly mid-off for 79. Wasim's 146-ball was laced with 10 fours.Pakistan's innings ended 30 minutes before close of play when Younis struck a ferocious square cut but unluckily for him, the ball hit Mahela Jayawardena, fielding at silly point, on the elbow before rebounding off to Aravinda de Silva at extra cover. Saqlain, who also batted with a runner (Youhana) remained not out at 2.

Muralitharan finished with four for 127 to follow his four for 45 in the first innings. Vaas and Zoysa took three for 85 and three for 64 respectively.