Battling Yousuf earns a draw
Reiterating his monstrous appetite for runs, Mohammad Yousuf steered Pakistan out of choppy waters, guiding them to safety on the final day of the second Test at Multan. Falling in the 190s for the second time in as many Tests, and third in the year, Yousuf's superb knock allowed Pakistan to hang on to their 1-0 lead, a position from where they cannot lose the series.
Yousuf compiled his seventh century of the year, a feat previously achieved by only Viv Richards and Aravinda de Silva, and ensured a stalemate, the first in five Tests at Multan. The innings showed his ability to stick it out against the moving ball, in a tricky morning spell when the game could have slipped away, as well as his penchant for batting long periods. It wasn't a flawless effort - edges, dropped catches and close lbw calls went his way - but the value of the innings cannot be underestimated, denying West Indies a rare Test win in Pakistan.
The crucial period of the day was midway through the first session. The new ball provided West Indies with a window of opportunity and their fast bowlers tried their best to capitalise. Not for the first time, Corey Collymore went through a luckless period, enduring three close lbw appeals - one against Yousuf appeared plumb - and a rash of edges that didn't carry to slip. Runako Morton's dropped catch at second slip, when Yousuf wafted at a wide one from Daren Powell, compounded their frustration.
Yousuf was fortunate to hang in there. Collymore's canny seam movement had both him and Inzamam-ul-Haq in a tangle - a number of deliveries passed perilously close to the edge of the bat after the movement left both batsmen clueless. Jerome Taylor's speed, with his ability to angle the ball into the right-hander and make it straighten, proved to be an ideal foil. Powell, too, put in a much-improved effort, and complemented them effectively. Inzamam's 38-ball 10, when he was hardly his authoritative self, ended when he missed a quick Taylor delivery that held its line after pitching on off. Soon Shoaib Malik, after an equally painstaking innings, undercut Powell onto the stumps and raised visions of a West Indian victory.
Yousuf, though, refused to budge. Amid the uncertainty, he punished the wide deliveries and the manner in which he brought up his hundred - swiveling around to execute a regal pull - conveyed the kind of form he was in. After the lunch break, with the ball older and pitch easing out, he had little to worry about. Cruising against both spin and pace, he eased to his 150 and was closing in on Richards' record number of runs (1710) in a calendar year. With one Test to go, he still needs another 148, not the sort of score that would challenge a man who's main failing appears to be the nervous 190s.
Abdul Razzaq gave him company for most of the day and, unlike in the first innings, expressed himself with more freedom. Making up for the forgettable performance in the first four days of the game, when he was ineffective with both bat and ball, he reeled off fours as if in one-day mode and dominated the spinners. He fell in a quick bid to bring up his hundred and played his part in completely shutting out the game.
It was a rather tame end to a game that had been uplifted by Brian Lara's genius. His magnificent 216 led a strong West Indian performance but their lapses on the field, and lack of penetration in the spin department, cost them dear. Taylor's spirit and the fight shown by the batting line-up are two of the positives they will take with them to Karachi, as they attempt to become only the second visiting side (England being the first) to win a Test in what is surely a Pakistani fortress.
At the end of the game, though, one must spare a thought for Collymore, arguably the unluckiest bowler in recent memory. The scorecard will tell you that he ended with 2 for 133 in the 59 overs he delivered but that doesn't take into account the umpteen edges that fell short, lbw appeals that were turned down and chances that went down. Endowing him with some luck may require powers of witchcraft but if the rest of the side can emulate his untiring persistence, the series may end on a happy note after all.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo