Pakistan's penchant for churning out young talent was in evidence at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore today, as Shahid Yousuf stroked his second first-class hundred to continue Sialkot's dominance over Faisalabad on day two of the Quaid-e-Azam Gold League Final.
In an innings reminiscent of a senior namesake, the 19-year old Yousuf was impressive in scoring heavily square on the offside, with blistering drives between cover and point. Had Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, been present at the Gaddafi Stadium today, he would have been pleased to witness this innings from a talent certain to knock on the selectors' doors sooner than later.
Yousuf's 117 apart, a fine 80 from Shehzad Malik down the order took Sialkot to 343. As his innings progressed, Malik became more confident off the back foot, working the ball square for singles. After a period of tight bowling from Imran Khalid, the left-arm spinner, Malik broke the shackles by lofting the same bowler over the long-off fence. Tahir Mughal, perhaps taking the hint, brought up the 50 partnership with an authoritative cover drive for four before lofting Khalid over long-on as Sialkot began to up the tempo.
Credit is due, however, to Faisalabad's opening bowlers, Shahid Nazir and Samiullah Khan. The morning session, full of bounce and movement, made up a tricky passage of play as the two bowled some probing spells. Nazir obtained good bounce from the wicket, channeling a good length to swing the ball past Mansoor Amjad's dangling bat on more than one occasion. Yousuf was more confident in his shot selection, however, driving anything slightly full while being solid in his back-foot defense.
At 168 for 5, the hardworking Samiullah drew Amjad's edge with a ball that left the batsman. This brought to the crease the impressive Malik, who was immediately off the mark with a straight drive past Nazir's outstretched arm. He followed that up with a glorious drive to the cover fence. Yousuf brought up his hundred off just 131 balls with a slice though third slip and gully, but fell after the lunch break as Nazir nipped one back between bat and pad for Mohammad Salman to hold the thin edge brilliantly behind the stumps.
Malik was last man out, bowled by Samiullah, who finished with a career-best 6 for 112. By then, though, Sialkot had taken a 232-run lead over its opponents, and two quick wickets from Sarfraz Ahmed before stumps ensured a hard day's toil for Faisalabad tomorrow.