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November 27, 2006
The spirit of Sir Viv Richards coursed through the National Stadium all day. His record for the most Test runs in a calendar year has stood for 30 years now, unsurpassed long enough for it to attain similar status as the legendary four-minute mile record. Mohammad Yousuf began the day 149 runs short of breaking it and ended it, less than a half-century away and one innings for the year left.
Other records were broken or equalled though; nobody has now scored more than the eight Test hundreds in one year that he has, an honour previously held jointly by Richards and Aravinda de Silva. This was also his fifth hundred in five Tests, a feat Jacques Kallis has equalled and only the greatest, Sir Don Bradman, surpassed. As he spoke to reporters at the end of an ultimately disappointing day for Pakistan, he sensibly refused to be drawn into comparisons with Sir Viv.
"Viv Richards was the best player of this era. There is absolutely no one like him around and breaking his centuries record is a huge thing for me. But I'll admit I cannot play like him at all. Many people had pointed out that I can break his record number of runs this year too and it was on my mind. But he was a match-winning player unlike any. The bigger the bowler the better his batting would get."
Though he chose his Lord's double as the best of his eight this year, the 102 he crafted on a sluggard of a pitch this afternoon was, like his batting this year, on a plane different to that of his fellow batsmen. Initially he struggled to adjust to the pace and indeterminate bounce but a clip through midwicket and a dab through point in the over after lunch suggested he was coming to terms with the surface. Thereafter, as batsman after batsman faltered, Yousuf glided on. As Pakistan inched on at under three an over, Yousuf floated to a hundred off 155 balls; of the 32 boundaries Pakistan hit, Yousuf's wrists were responsible for 15.
"I have been playing on pitches like this around the world for years now. If you have to make runs you should be able to make them anywhere. It is slow, some balls are keeping low and it will become difficult to score as the match progresses," said Yousuf.
Such has been his form, and Pakistan's reliance on him - those slender shoulders have produced over 35% of Pakistan's total runs scored this series - that his captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was moved to call him, in his column, Pakistan's greatest batsman ever. Again, as regular as a cover drive, came the modesty. "I don't think so. I mean Inzamam is such a great batsman himself and his record speaks for itself. I am grateful that he thinks it but Javed Miandad and Hanif Mohammad were very, very big players."
A few runs from the captain wouldn't go amiss and his 18 today was another woeful struggle to relocate his groove. And when you become Daren Ganga's first international wicket of any kind, you know that form has well and truly deserted you. The class, though Yousuf reminded everyone, is still with him.
"When Inzamam scores runs, the team scores with him and does well. He has done it all, won matches, saved matches, everything. He is a little out of form at the moment and we hope he can get it back. But there is no player like him." If this last year has been anything to go by, clearly there is one.
Also, top-scoring in both innings, most Test dismissals caught, and the oldest Test centurion
Plays of the day from the CLT20 match between Dolphins and Lahore Lions in Bangalore