May 19, 2000

Youhana The Man

Confronted by the pluperfect pitch they were promised and stymied by the traditional lack of variety in their all-pace attack, the West Indies once more let Pakistan wriggle out of a tight bind on the first day of the second Cable & Wireless Test at Kensington Oval yesterday.

Almost exactly mirroring the first morning of the previous rain-ruined Test in Georgetown, when they were 39 for five, Pakistan found themselves 37 for five after an hour-and-a-quarter's play.

Sharp West Indian close fielders snared everything that came their way off bowlers who used their height to exploit the early bounce from a rock-hard surface and exploit the vulnerability of the Pakistani top order in such conditions.

As the searing heat squeezed the early life out of both the surface and the bowling, Pakistan were revived by an innings of the highest class by Yousuf Youhana and the support he received from three successive partners.

Entering in the fire straits of seven for three, the 25-year-old right-hander compiled his second Test hundred, a chanceless 115 before he was last out nearing the end of a protracted day. It was a tired shot, a deflection for the seventh slip catch of the innings, and gave the perennial Courtney Walsh his fifth wicket that raised his Test record count to 442.

Although none matched the 206 between Inzamam-ul-Haq and Abdur Razzaq that transformed the innings in the first Test, Youhana's counter-attacking stands of 73 with captain Moin Khan, 69 with Wasim Akram and 41 with Saqlain Mushtaq guaranteed a total of 253 that their varied bowling can work with.

Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith saw out the two overs the West Indies were left to bat before close and, on a second day when Kensington is traditionally at its most amiable to batsmen, the West Indies still have an excellent chance of building a useful lead.

Previously out for four ducks on tour, the last first ball in the first Test, Youhana accumulated his runs over six hours with stylish, straight-batted orthodoxy that brought him 14 boundaries, mostly drives straight and through the off-side.

No more than half-dozen of the 235 balls he received troubled him. Only leg cramps that twice required lengthy on-field attention and an unscheduled visit to the dressing room late in the proceedings slowed his progress - and that of the play that was extended by an annoying assortment of other interruptions.

An inviting pitch, beige in colour, bare of grass and reminiscent of those on which the Three Ws, Sobers and the plethora of the great Barbadian batsmen of the past were raised, left Moin no option but to bat on winning the toss.

In no time, he would have been wishing he hadn't, as ill-advised strokes kept flying off edges into the slips and Razzaq's clear aversion to the short ball was clinically exploited by Nixon McLean.

Jimmy Adams, as he has done throughout the season, immediately set the standards for his team with a sensational catch at third slip, diving far and low to his right to grasp Mohammed Wasim's deflection off Walsh.

Imran Nazir, in his first Test of the series, followed in the next over, steering Ambrose into Campbell's lap at first slip, the stroke of the raw 18-year-old that Imran is.

Walsh struck again after half-hour when Younis Khan's tentative defensive stroke flew from the outside edge to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at third slip.

Once again, the responsibilty weighed heavily on the broad shoulders of Inzamam, Pakistan's sole batsman of proven quality, but neither he nor Razzaq could repeat their heroics of Georgetown.

Imzaman could not negotiate King's bouncing leg-cutter and was comfortably taken by Adams at third slip and Razzaq fended off McLean's bodyline delivery to be caught so low to the ground by Wavell Hinds at short-leg it needed several television replays before he was correctly ruled out by third umpire Halley Moore.

Moin has developed a familiarity with crisis during his lengthy career and he responded to this one with typical gusto.

He and Youhana plundered 38 off four overs from King and McLean, both of whom were expensive and disappointing in their support roles, and counted 16 boundaries between them.

It took the return of Walsh, back with Ambrose after lunch, to make the crucial breakthrough as Moin was neatly snapped up by Chanderpaul at second slip for 38.

The left-handed Akram, Pakistan's longest-serving player in his 94th Test, picked up where Moin left off. He delighted in the West Indian tactic that fed him outside his off-stump where he could advertise his boisterous off-side strokes that brought him all of his seven fours in an arc between mid-off and third man.

Whenever McLean shortened into his body, he was distinctly uncomfortable and when Ambrose went round the wicket to angle into him, he got himself into a tangle and diverted the ball into his stumps off the inside edge. Surely, after all this time, the West Indies would know how to best bowl to him.

Youhana found another willing partner in Saqlain Mushtaq who remained with him for over an hour until, cutting at Adams' left-arm spin, he provided Campbell with his third catch at slip.

By then, there was little spark in the West Indies bowling. It took another three-quarters of an hour to wrap things up and a 37-year-old with a sore right ankle to do it.

Sticking his right foot out to make an interception at mid-off shortly before tea, Walsh trod on the ball, tumbled over and lay motionless on the ground for a few worrying moments. When he got up, he limped to the pavilion for examination, was assured it was nothing serious and, typically, returned to the fray. In the circumstances, a host of others of his vintage would have taken the rest of the afternoon off.

Not Courtney. Back he came and his reward were the wickets of Waqar Younis and, fittingly, Youhana.