India v Pakistan, 1st Test, Lahore, 1st day January 13, 2006

Younis and Yousuf lead Lahore leather-hunt

Pakistan 326 for 2 (Younis 147*, Yousuf 95*) v India
Scorecard and ball-by-ball-details



Younis Khan picked up from where he left off against India earlier in the year with an assertive innings © AFP

As openings go, this one was out and out one-sided. One team rejoiced after an inspirational century and two vital fifties, under sunny skies on a featherbed of a pitch, and took control. Another side started the day with a selection conundrum and ended it with several other riddles to ponder over.

Pakistan made the most of their fortune at the toss. They saw off the new ball, consolidated in the second session, and finished with a mighty flourish, shredding the bowling to bits. India, not for the first time in the last year, ran into a red-hot Younis Khan and wilted in ideal batting conditions in a half-full, yet joyous, Gadaffi Stadium. No greentop, no wintry conditions; simply one jolly run-fest. Welcome to Pakistan.

If it's India it must be Younis. Carrying on from his heroic efforts on the Indian tour series earlier this year, he displayed his array of flourishing twirls and spanking straight-drives against an attack that failed to summon too much incisiveness.

Cheering his partners with customary vigour - applauding, smiling, wrist punching - he propelled Pakistan right through the day, reached his tenth Test hundred with a magnificent straight-drive and entered a blistering zone as the light began to fade. Shoaib Malik had lent solidity earlier this morning and Yousuf gave him company through the afternoon merrymaking and Pakistan were wrenching away the momentum too early, too well. Forget the rest. When Anil Kumble finishes the first day with none for 93, you know that it's been tough going.

Walking in in the third over of the day, after a wandering Salman Butt had been run out by Yuvraj Singh in one of few inspirational moments India could manage, Younis latched on to the full deliveries with glee, driving assertively to the straight boundary. The paddle-sweeps against Harbhajan Singh and the classy cuts off Kumble put them off their rhythm, before cute late jabs, when the ball went finer and finer as the day progressed, and macho swipes took over. Amid all this, though, was some canny scampering as the fielders found themselves scattered in various parts of the park. Having had an indifferent series against England, Younis couldn't have chosen too many bigger stages to stamp his authority, with the most emphatic of opening salvos.

Just like at Kolkata earlier this year, he found an able ally in Mohammad Yousuf, the touch artist, who as always, handled the spinners with ease - paddling, sweeping, pulling the long hops and dancing down the track - as the attack slowly began to lose its bite. Kumble's long hops were dismissed over midwicket, Pathan's wide ones caressed through covers, and Harbhajan's flighted offerings creamed through, well, anywhere on the off side. Cruising to fifty off 72 balls, he delicately dismantled the Indian attack, sometimes even summoning the courage to dance down the track to Kumble. He offered a chance when on 90, flashing at a wide one from Agarkar, but was smiling again when Virender Sehwag, at gully, reacted a tad too late.

The importance of the third big knock of the day shouldn't be under-estimated. Malik, who was retained as an opener, bided his time against the faster men and executing the glide to a nicety. Playing with soft hands, mostly in control, he regularly found a gap between the three-man slip cordon and gully. The flick was also one of his favourites and was helped by the fact that the bowlers slid down the legside on quite a few occasions.

He was in no mood to get bogged down by Harbhajan Singh, who extracted some turn in his opening over, and waltzed down the track in his second over, tonking him over midwicket for a superb six. He brought up his fourth Test fifty, his first in nearly six months, with a similar stroke and gradually began opening up at the end of the first session. His aggression probably got the better of him and he fell soon after the break, driving uppishly against Pathan only for Harbhajan to take a simple catch.

Rahul Dravid juggled his bowling options around, and tried a few innovative field settings - including two close in on the leg-side for Malik - but it was tough going all day. With the ball not swinging too much in the air, Pathan and Agarkar lacked the incisive edge while the spinners, though extracting a bit of turn, found it tough against batsmen who read the length of the ball early.

Ganguly, who was included in the side at Gautam Gamhir's expense, also tried his hand, keeping it tight and not experimenting too much, and all the bowlers were forced to do the same as the day progressed. It didn't matter. On a day such as this, when the ignition refuses to switch on, nothing, yes nothing, will work.

How they were out

Salman Butt run-out (Yuvraj) 6 (12 for 1)
Backing up too far; couldn't beat swoop-and-pick up throw

Shoaib Malik c Harbhajan b Pathan 59 (136 for 2)
Uppish drive to an outswinger; taken at cover

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo

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