November 30, 2000

Youhana, Moin steer Pakistan to a respectable score

Faisalabad, Nov 29: An unbroken 92-run sixth wicket partnership between Yousuf Youhana and skipper Moin Khan put Pakistan back on track for a healthy first innings total against England on the first day of the second Test.

When stumps were drawn at the Iqbal Stadium with eight overs still to be bowled, Pakistan had reached 243 for five.

The home side must be satisfied after the first day's hardwork particularly after they had appeared to waste the opportunity of batting first by slumping to 151 for five shortly before tea.

Moin was undefeated on 57 with his 15th half century in 60th Test reached with a straight six off Ashley Giles. The Pakistan captain also hit Craig White for the maximum over mid-on besides his six boundaries. He has faced 81 deliveries during his 118 minutes stay at the crease.

Yousuf Youhana followed up his 124 in the first Test with another disciplined 61 that contained eight graceful boundaries. He has been occupying the crease for 10 minutes over four hours during which he has received 173 balls. His 11th half century in 26th Test has come off 128 balls with six fours.

The Youhana-Moin duo not only did the repair work to perfection but also kept the scoreboard moving with their trademark shots. Moin was adventurous as always with delicate paddle sweeps and blistering drives on the off-side, both conventional and inside out drives, while Youhana played text book cricket with all the shots perfectly timed and staying as close to the ground as possible.

Moin once again justified his reputation as `Mr Trouble-shooter' when he rescued Pakistan from a precarious position. While doing it, he also silenced his critics who had been questioning his role in the team.

Moin was in complete command out in the centre and reduced Youhana to just sleeping partner. Youhana was 28 when Moin Khan stepped in after White had pushed back Abdur Razzaq's middle stump. In partnership with Moin, Youhana's contributions remained just 33 but most importantly he is still there.

But hats off to Youhana who played brilliantly and didn't panic despite the loss of wickets at the other end. An invaluable innings here after a match-saving performance at Lahore confirms that he is in terrific form and is gradually making to the category of world-class batsman who are there chiefly because of their consistency rather than power in arms or wrists.

But the job of the two unbeaten batsmen isn't finished yet. The ball is turning and would spin square and keep low as the match progresses. After having won the crucial toss, Pakistan's initial target would have been 425 or around so that they don't have to chase a big score in this match. The two stroke-makers need to bat at least for another session on Thursday to ensure that Pakistan reaches close to that target.

Earlier in the day, slow left-armer Ashley Giles spoiled a good morning for Pakistan when he picked up wickets of Pakistan's two big guns, Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq in a space of just three balls.

Saeed appeared in a hurry when he struck right down Graham Thorpe's throat at mid-wicket and then Inzamam played a lazy defensive stroke with the ball rolling back onto the stumps.

The shot played by Saeed was a complete shame in the background that the left-hander was batting on 53 and in his 51st Test. He not only undid his good work with a suicidal shot but also left Pakistan in hot waters as Inzamam followed him two balls later.

Saeed was never in control against Giles and should have been more watchful than trying to put the left-hander's bowling to the sword. Of Giles's second ball in the match, Saeed mistimed an on-drive but was fortunate when the ball went a couple of yards away from Thorpe who was then standing at short mid-wicket. The opener was extremely lucky four balls later when Giles dropped a return catch.

If an experienced campaigner like Saeed can perish to a dismal shot, what to expect from an inexperienced Salim Elahi who threw away his wicket after doing all the hardwork. He attempted an inside out shot and went through with it after Giles bowled wide outside the offstump. The result was simple as Thorpe held a sitter at covers.

Saeed's 53, his 25th career half century, came off 52 balls - a more one-day like knock - and laced with seven boundaries. Salim Elahi canned five fours in his 93-ball 41 for which he stayed at the wicket for 11 minutes over two hours.

Shahid Afridi was all at sea and before he could judge the pace and bounce of the wicket he fell prey to an excellent outswinger from Darren Gough.

Giles was the pick of the England bowlers with three for 57 after being introduced in the attack in the 15th over. Ian Salisbury, who was held back until the 42nd over, remained ineffective and mediocre as he has been throughout the tour. The England team's decision to leave out an in-form Matthew Hoggard for the Surrey leg-spinner is nothing but mindboggling.

While England retained the same squad which played at Lahore, Pakistan sprung two changes. They left out Qaisar Abbas and Mushtaq Ahmad. Instead they recalled off-spinner Arshad Khan and gave Test cap to Danish Kaneria.

Kaneria donned the cap in a simple ceremony in which Wasim Akram also received a 22-carat golden plaque for completing a century of Tests.