May 26, 2000

It's 'You' again

The sign of the cross, a gesture of praise and gratitude for all Christians, has taken on a diametrically opposite meaning for West Indian cricketers over the past week.

As the only one of his faith in the team representing the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Yousuf Youhana celebrates every landmark in an innings with a religious acclamation more familiar in the Caribbean than in his homeland.

It was evident twice on his way to 115 on the first day of the second Test at Kensington Oval last Thursday that guided Pakistan through early troubles to a respectable total.

Youhana was able to repeat it in similar circumatances on the first day of the third, final and decisive Test here yesterday by scoring 102 runs not out. For five-and-a-half hours and 228 balls of unwavering concentration and flawless stroke selection, he kept the West Indies at bay after they had justifiably chosen to bowl on winning the toss and had once more undermined the early Pakistan batting.

The closest the West Indies came to removing him was when he snicked Walsh a couple of feet short of Shivnarine Chanderpaul at second slip when 27 and when his one hook stroke, off Walsh, just cleared Ambrose's elongated stretch at fine leg and went for six to carry him into the 90s.

In a repetition of the previous two Tests, Pakistan battled their way out of a tight spot to a satisfactory, if not commanding, position by the end of the day's 90 overs.

Youhana and Inzamam-ul-Haq, who had been at the heart of the earlier recoveries, shared a partnership of 97 with Youhana either side of lunch that steadied the innings.

In yet another of the wholehearted spells that have characterised his lengthy career, Courtney Walsh removed the threatening Inzamam to a catch at point for 55, that included six meaty fours and a pulled outof-the-ground six off Ambrose, and the troublesome Abdur Razzaq for two just before tea.

But the West Indies had neither the penetration nor the variety to sustain their advantage in conditions that always offered them some encouragement, especially in the opening exchanges.

They could not budge Youhana, who received useful support in successive stands of 41 with his captain, Moin Khan, and 33 with Wasim Akram before both fell to edged catches just when they threatened to disrupt West Indian plans even further.

Moin edged low to 'keeper Ridley Jacobs during a spell of eight overs from Franklyn Rose, as spirited as that from Walsh, whom he replaced.

Akram was neatly taken by Sherwin Campbell, low down at first slip, off Reon King, who had an otherwise lacklustre day.

West Indian frustration was compounded by Saqlain Mushtaq, who held firm for one hour before the tireless Walsh despatched him to another Campbell slip catch off his second delivery with the second new ball as the shadows lengthened.

West Indian problems were typified by 16 no-balls, five more than in their previous three innings in the series put together and shoddy ground fielding that conceded two boundaries from overthrows.

It was an unusual off-day for Ambrose, who bowled only five overs after lunch and none at all after tea.

There was the rare gamble of a couple of overs of unpractised leg-spin from Ramnaresh Sarwan. The youngster had previously sent down eight, wicketless overs all season and now went for 16 as Akram lashed a four to midwicket and a huge six over the Richie Richardson Stand at longon.

Yet the West Indies made their usual encouraging start.

As if they didn't have enough to concern them, Pakistan lost the toss and had to cope with a pitch spiced by preparation moisture.