March 18, 2001

Youhana's double century day but Saqlain two short of first ton

Saqlain Mushtaq will be looking for two runs to achieve a much wanted maiden Test century on the last morning of the second National Bank series Test against New Zealand, but it will be wickets he is chasing later in the day.

Saqlain, after batting all day, was 98 not out at the end as Pakistan ended the fourth day 85 runs in front of New Zealand on 561/7 with Saqlain unable to get enough of the strike in the last half hour to register his century.

The whole day was one of accumulation as the New Zealand attack went wicketless until 30 minutres before stumps as Yousuf Youhana built towards his maiden double century in Test cricket. Only 220 runs were scored on the day for the one wicket.

It may have been slow stuff but for Youhana it was the latest highlight in a stunning batting sequence who has now scored five centuries in his last eight Tests.

His highest score before today was 124 scored against England at Lahore in December.

Total concentration, with little of the flair he showed during his first 50, was rewarded in a fine batting effort that offered the New Zealanders no hope until Mark Richardson, a former left-arm spinner who suffered the yips, changed to bowling medium-pacers and then became an opening batsman, was used as a bowling alternative and picked up Youhana's wicket, caught and bowled for 203.

Youhana shared a 248-run stand for the seventh wicket in 372 minutes off 571 balls.

"It was my best Test century, it was chanceless and it was good for Pakistan," he said.

The innings came as the result of a change in emphasis in his batting. He is playing straighter and containing some of the attacking shots which have marked the earlier part of his career.

Having Saqlain with him during the day was also important as he said he has been his partner for five of his six centuries.

"My instructions were to get the scores level and then play on to get a lead of 150 runs. It is a perfect batting track," he said.

Saqlain said he was very pleased with his batting effort and enjoys the battle with his concentration when batting.

"It was a pleasure batting with Yousuf. He reckon he is one of the great batsmen in the world and it is all credit to him.

"Whenever I play I always try to bat well and hopefully I will get my 100 tomorrow," he said.

Asked about the baseball-type shot which when struck properly, which on this occasion was most of the time, heads toward the mid off boundary very quickly, he said: "It was my favourite shot when I used to play it on the street as a child.

"Yousuf did try to tell me to stop playing it but I said I wanted to play it, and then he said, 'Do it carefully.'"

Saqlain said he wasn't panicking by the end of the day when he was so close to his century.

Comparing his innings with that played when scoring his previous highest score of 79 during a world record partnership with Wasim Akram, he said, this was a much better innings.

"That time I wasn't that experienced or mature. I didn't slog then.

"This is my best innings and it is my great wish to score a Test century," he said.

And the chances of still being able to win the Test by bowling New Zealand out again were good.

"I reckon in cricket anything can happen. I am very keen to bowl tomorrow. One good spell could change it.

"There a quite a few footmarks out there, more than in the first innings and the bounce is still there," he said.

As for New Zealand, their bowlers were forced to make up the difference with Chris Drum out of the attack and it was a fine effort to restrict Pakistan to as few runs as the 220 scored. Despite the long haul in the field, the fielding effort was competitive all day.