Experienced Younis wears Zimbabwe bowling down
Zimbabwe will look to Younis Khan for inspiration as they set out to save the first Test against Pakistan in Harare. Set a massive 342 for victory, Zimbabwe will hope to bat out the day with the same patience and poise Younis displayed during his 10-and-a-half hour period at the crease, during which he brought up a second undefeated 200.
Younis batted from the eighth over, when Pakistan were 21 for 2, until the end of the innings by which time he had put them in a commanding position. He saw off an extended period during which run-scoring was scant and shared in two century-stands and an 88-run last-wicket partnership to give Pakistan a healthy lead and show the value of an old-hand.
"It was a fantastic innings," Dav Whatmore said. "It really helped us out from the position we were in. When the captain was out, Younis really showed what he was capable of. He just continued and he showed a lot of faith in the younger players."
One of the two hundred partnerships Younis was involved in was with Adnan Akmal to make good on his intention, which he stated on Thursday evening, to help the next generation of Pakistan batsmen.
Through trying periods, during which Zimbabwe's bowlers rarely erred from a tight offstump line, Younis shepherded Adnan, who may have become frustrated were it not for the example Younis set.
"He is the experience in the team and he showed it. He batted, even when his strike rate went down, it didn't matter. Other players might have got out through fatigue but he kept going," Whatmore said.
Flower admitted Younis eventually "wore down our bowlers" and even though it likely batted Zimbabwe out of the match, it taught their batsmen how to apply themselves. "They can learn from his skills, his patience and how much he wanted it," Flower said. "He built an innings and showed why he is still one of the best Test batsmen in the world."
So impressive was the timing of Younis' knock - it started slowly, swelled gradually and accelerated the way he plays a late glance, at just the last moment - that Whamore called it "one of the finest innings I've seen." He also said it was a testament to Younis' commitment. "After the first innings, where he failed, he went back to the nets, he worked hard and it showed."
Whatmore now expects the same from his bowlers, who already made an inroad into Zimbabwe's line-up late on the fourth evening and have a full day to take the remaining nine wickets. "We think we've got enough time. More than 90 overs should be enough and we're hopeful spin can do the trick for us."
Pakistan are confident of taking a 1-0 lead in the series, which they are also using as preparation for what is expected to be a much sterner challenge against South Africa in the UAE next month. "This is ideal preparation. When we played South Africa in February, we had had a lot of stuff in coloured clothing but now this has worked out very well," Whatmore said.
His only outstanding wish was that Pakistan could have played at a different facility in addition to the one being used for this match. "It's not easy being at one venue. It's a pity we can't have a different scenery," he said. Their entire tour of two Twenty20s, three ODIs and two Tests has been Harare-based after ZC moved the second Test from Bulawayo to the capital as well.
Although a trip to the more spinner-friendly Queens Club would have suited Pakistan just fine, Whatmore said they are not complaining. "We understand the challenges and we are keen to play as much Test cricket as we can, just like Zimbabwe, so we'll take this for sure."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent