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January 31, 2006
If the contest between bat and ball, between bowler and batsman, is ever to be thought of as a love affair, then between Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and India's bowlers, there exists an unconventional but workable threesome. Both love batting with each other and love batting against India together even more.
In only six innings against India, the pair has made 1156 runs together; it consists of five century collaborations and one of fifty-plus. Only one pair - Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge - have scored more (1325 runs) against India, but they took 24 more innings. Only one pair - Roshan Mahanama and Sanath Jayasuriya - averages a greater partnership against India (223.66) although that comes from a smaller sample of three innings. In any case, averaging a partnership of nearly 193, as Younis and Yousuf do, is not so inferior. Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas, a combination embedded in the folklore of Indo-Pak matches, have already been surpassed in every aspect; runs scored, average stands and century stands.
But their love is open too, not reserved only for Indian bowlers. As they stand now, with 2000 runs from 26 innings, at an average of 76.92, they are the third most prolific Pakistani partnership and although not yet on the list of the most prolific ever, they're not far off.
Like Bonnie and Clyde, their partnership holds, essentially, a criminal allure; their runs are stolen, nabbed, poached serially. Quite often boundaries are also found but the real attraction is in their running. As all good con artists might one day testify, the secret is in the confidence with which they operate. In their 158-run union today, they were intent on taking singles off the first ball of overs, much like you might desire a boundary at the death of an ODI chase. Each stroke was an opportunity and only cockiness would avail it. A prod to cover, a nudge to square leg, a tickle to point, all to fielders stationed primarily to save singles. It was fraudulent because no runs existed and yet they kept coming. Often five or six men were assigned that task yet more often they were all tricked.
Some like Yuvraj Singh at point were conned diabolically; Younis dabbed a little wide of him in the morning's seventh over and as Yuvraj shepherded the ball safe in the knowledge only one was on, Younis stole another, the ball having gone barely outside where an ODI fielding circle would be. While Yousuf brought up his fifty with an on-driven four, Younis chose to tap the ball to his feet and run, with bowler and two fielders converging. This they did through their three-hour stay.
And this they have done through their relationship. Somehow, like the very best couples, they click when they really shouldn't. With other partners, Yousuf is a dangerous runner. His initial reaction after any shot is to take three steps down the pitch, conveying a run. It has betrayed many a man but Younis fully understands this flaw. He allows for it. With Younis - a surer judge of a single - Yousuf becomes an electric runner. Together, they are like one Javed Miandad, another runner who drove fielding sides mad and one who pioneered modern-day ODI running. Their effect, much like Miandad's, is two-fold. Scoring remains brisk, momentum is quickly accrued and above all, fielders are run haggard.
Both men, combined, have now made 1014 runs in this series alone and 861 of them have been in four partnerships together. Whether or not the same love is reciprocated from India of course becomes a moot point.