November 19, 2000

Lahore test ends in a draw while Youhana sparkles

Pakistan having already averted the follow on, the match was on course for a draw with only academic interest for cricket lovers. There were still a couple of things at stake. While England wanted to grab the two left over wickets quickly, Pakistan wished Yousuf Youhana 77* overnight, to hoist his fourth century in test cricket. Youhana who had been a symbol of concentration deserved it fully.

England commenced the attack with spinner Ian Salisbury from one end and medium pacer Craig White from the other. Despite a very tight and accurate spell by both bowlers, the Pakistan batsmen were not tempted to open up. They were playing safe perhaps with the sole object of enabling Youhana to reach his ton. While Youhana continued adding to his score whenever he got a chance, Saqlain (14) gave him the needed support, scoring only one run in the first hour of play.

The moment of rejoicing came at last when Youhana drove Salisbury to point for 3 runs to complete his fighting century. For this remarkable feat that elevated Pakistan to a respectable position in the match, he received a standing ovation from the small crowd present at the stadium. England tried almost all the bowlers in their armory to dislodge the pair but to no avail. Youhana was now in full command while Saqlain contributed by scoring singles and twos.

With a brilliant spell of concentration the two batsmen raised Pakistan's score to 400 when Youhana gave an outside edge to Alec Stewart behind the stumps off Giles after an invaluable innings of 124. Mushtaq Ahmed who came to bat at the tail end was trapped leg before by Craig White was back in the pavilion without opening his account. Pakistan's 1st innings thus came to an end at a respectable score of 401 after giving some anxious moments to their fans. It was the 9th wicket partnership of 127 runs between Youhana and Saqlain that not only rescued Pakistan from a follow-on but also raised their total to respectability.

With a lead of 79 runs and two full sessions of play at their disposal England opened the 2nd innings rather unimpressively, suffering the first blow when Marcus Trescothick was declared LBW off Wasim Akram with only 4 runs on the board. Skipper Nasser Hussain had hardly taken the crease when he retired hurt, hit on the wrist by an express Wasim Akram delivery. Mike Atherton and Graham Thorpe, however, continued scoring runs steadily to keep the score board moving.

After a long spell by the pacers, the spin duo of Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed was brought in. Surprisingly the pitch did not spin as much as expected on the last day. Saqlain, the star of the 1st innings was still able to strike a serious blow to England. He got Thorpe caught by Abdur Razzaq on a ball that pitched well outside the off stump, bringing England to 29 for 2. Saqlain had grabbed his 9th wicket of the match. At tea England was 36 for 2 with Atherton and Stewart batting.

As the match was heading for a draw the atmosphere looked quite relaxed. Pakistan achieved another success when Mushtaq Ahmed trapped Atherton LBW for 20 rendering England to 39 for 3. This being Mushtaq's 1st wicket of the match, the ball hit the pads so straight that umpire Hair had no hesitation in raising his finger. While England started to get under pressure, Graeme Hick came in but was soon bowled round his legs by Shahid Afridi after scoring a sedate 14.

England was at 77 for 4 when the match was called off as a draw. It was a disappointing effort by England when compared to their prolific batting in the first innings. Pakistan gained some credit by averting the follow on, mounting a sizeable total in the first innings and getting England's four best batsmen out in the 2nd for a small score. Yousuf Youhana will go into the record books for a superb century scored when his team needed it the most and that too under tremendous pressure. Saqlain Mushtaq was unanimously declared Man of the Match for his distinguished performance with the ball and the courage and tenacity with which he held the crease in the moments of crisis.

England will play a 3-day game at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore 23 - 25 November followed by the second test at Faisalabad starting 29 November. All said and done the honours go to England for the first test and Pakistan selectors will need to find the correct combination in case Pakistan wants to better this strong and motivated England team.