Record-eyeing Younis puts team first
After finishing the day at 306 not out, the obvious question to Younis Khan was whether he would aim to break Brian Lara's record for the highest Test score. Although falling short of offering a clear-cut answer, he said the team will aim for bat for another 40-odd overs - which would give him enough time to reach 401 - before giving his bowlers some match practice before the second Test in Lahore.
"I want to bat another 40-plus overs tomorrow and if I have a chance to come close to the record it's fine, but the main target is to give some bowling to the bowlers," Younis said after the day's play. "In my mind I think our bowlers should bowl some overs tomorrow because they need some bowling before the second Test. We have youngsters like Yasir Arafat and Sohail Khan, and Umar Gul also needed some bowling."
Younis became the third Pakistan batsman after Hanif Mohammad and Inzamam-ul-Haq to reach a triple-hundred. He has himself been critical of the pitch, but Younis counted himself lucky to complete the achievement on a "cemented" track. "I dedicate this effort to my family, who have always prayed for me and backed me in difficult times, and my friends, team-mates."
With the pressure of avoiding the follow-on on them, Younis and the other Pakistan batsman adopted a cautious approach, and their 574 for 5 took 202 overs; in contrast Sri Lanka made 644 for 7 declared in 155.2. "On this wicket runs were not easy and that too against spinners like Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] because the ball was skidding on it."
Younis has been at the crease for most of the innings. He arrived shortly before stumps on the second day, and managed to bat out two more. "I'm still feeling good and I have a couple of more hours of batting strength left in me and I will try my best. My body is in good shape," he said. "My first target was to avoid the follow-on but now the target is to come on equal first-innings points with Sri Lanka. If we score 30-40 more than they did it will be good for us."
Younis said there was "nothing left in the game", and he did not expect any fifth-day surprises. "The wicket is slow and the ball is breaking but it's not like that it's unplayable. The ball is not gripping and there's nothing left in the wicket."
Younis also played a good host, saying that besides testing his bowlers, a declaration was due since otherwise it would be "an injustice to the Sri Lankans" who have fielded for 200-odd overs. "We can also come in this position in future," he said. "Cricket's charm should be there and we will give them around 40 to 50 overs to bat."
Younis may have tackled the likes of Murali and Ajantha Mendis during his innings, but he felt it did not match up to his match-winning 267 against India in Bangalore in 2005. "I think the Bangalore innings was more important because we won that match and managed to draw the series. I rate that innings more highly than this one." Nor did he think it was better than Inzamam's triple against New Zealand in Lahore in 2002. "Inzamam's triple-century was made in intense heat. I played that match. He hit around 12-13 sixes [he hit nine]. He was out of form and was struggling. I watched that innings from the dressing room. Inzy bhai's innings was top-class.
"I was lucky - it's hot in Karachi but there's a breeze in the afternoon which makes things good."
Younis could face a tricky call if he is close to 400 when a declaration is needed. "In my mind only the team plan matters if I come close to 400 I would give message to my team whether they want me to stay for couple of more overs. Records are not important for me; for me the team comes first."