Pakistan defy Headingley history
Pakistan have experienced most things at Headingley. They've been walloped on occasions, such as 1962 when they were hustled out by the celebrated Trueman-Statham axis, backed by the less celebrated bowling of Ted Dexter. They lost and drew a thriller in 1971 and 1974 respectively. They felt cheated too, in 1982 and 1992, in losses marred by a controversial decision here and there. They've had a wash-out as well for good measure in 1978. And in 1987, they felt the joy of a landmark win, leading to their first-ever series victory in England.
For five sessions till this afternoon, this year's bunch looked like they might go the way of their predecessors from 1962 and lose by an innings. The only good news until then for Pakistan had been that they finally, at the fourth time of asking, managed to take all ten English wickets. The news that they took their time (123 overs) about it and were generous with runs (515) offset it a little.
Such was Pakistan's aura at the time - as well as the cloud cover - that it was surely only a matter of time before Matthew Hoggard took his place among a line of English swingers who have stitched up Pakistan here; a list that includes men of all ilk, from Chris Old, Geoff Arnold and Mike Hendricks through Bob Willis and Ian Botham and latterly, the Neils Foster and Mallender.
It hasn't happened, yet, and for that, not for the first time, Pakistan will thank Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan. Happily, for the first time in some time, they did it against someone other than India. This was the eighth century partnership between the two of which five - their last five - have all been against India.
Clearly they like batting together; God knows they've spent enough time with each other at the crease which says, unfortunately, more about Pakistan's openers than anything else. But clearly there is a chemistry at play and Yousuf's eccentric running habits - he nearly sets off almost every ball he touches - is understood in the team only by Younis. Fittingly, a run-out brought them together here and immediately they began stealing the singles and hustling the doubles.
Other aspects were also familiar. Yousuf began edgily, finding Steve Harmison's bounce uncomfortable. A swish here, an edge there and a dropped chance later, he was finally away. Drives followed flicks followed sweeps followed paddles and glances; even the threat he has faced from Monty Panesar was deadened as much by him as the pitch.
Yousuf was his usual, but it was Younis's innings that was the more surprising of the two, mostly because of the mood it appeared he was playing in. Generally he is a genial, smiling character; he cracks the jokes, he keeps the spirits up, he claps every single, he cheers everyone on, he is the good cop. But there is a vindictiveness in him that would please Pathan stereotypers (he revealed once in an interview that as a Pathan he doesn't forget being wronged or hurt: he was referring to angry gestures he made to a PCB official who questioned his position in the team after scoring a century).
He had also spoken of the hurt and anger that followed the Old Trafford loss and when he began, he appeared as if bent on taking out some hurt on English bowlers. He cut Sajid Mahmood a couple of times initially as if he was taking his anger out on the ball, doing much the same to a Steve Harmison bouncer later. He went about his business with a moodiness and steeliness, with what was as close to a snarl as his permanently smiling face can muster, far removed from his usual demeanour.
His anger was replaced with something cooler as the afternoon wore on, wary perhaps of the need to score big against a team other than India (four of his last five hundreds have been against the old enemy). By then Yousuf was steadily taking over but a couple of boundaries in the second last over of the day - one slapped so hard square the ball could justifiably plead GBH and one creamed through mid-off - reminded all that Younis would remain bad cop for now. Pakistan won't much care what mood he's in as long as he scores big tomorrow.
Above all, Pakistan will be relieved that they didn't cave in as most people expected after Old Trafford and the first sessions here. There is far too much cricket left to predict confidently what experience Headingley 2006 brings for Pakistan. A fighting, rearguard draw would be new for them here and maybe not such a bad result all told.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo