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Pakistan minus that old, eerie panic

The victorious Pakistan team after winning the series 2-1 AFP

When panic is the natural state of being, periods of calm become terrifying. They're not even periods so much as preludes; a long-drawn, torturous set-up to some overwhelming, disastrous punchline. Every moment you wait, in hellish anticipation: it will come, it will come. Crap. It has come.

This has long been the worldly rhythm of Pakistan in chases, ever since it first manifested itself in the early 1970s. In 1971, they lost by 25 runs at Headingley, chasing 231, having been 160 for 4. Less than two years later they were 83 for 3 chasing 159 in Sydney. They were all out for 106, prompting the great Australian newspaper headline-sledge: "Panickstan."

In many ways, the disintegration of a Pakistan chase, small or large but especially small, feels like whatever is the exact opposite state of the haal that has secured them so many famous wins. Where in those wins every little piece slithers together, like the ominous regathering of the T-1000, the losses are the explosion that scattered those little pieces around.

For the memory, both are as powerful and difficult to forget. Everyone remembers Hamilton '93, or Abu Dhabi '12; nobody forgets Sydney '10 or Galle '09. And even when they do chase down totals, the panic never quite leaves, not until the very last run is scored. Hello Karachi '84, when Pakistan lost seven wickets chasing down 65, and also this list for a more precise idea of how shakily they have chased mid-sized and low totals. Here is the constitution of Pakistan cricket: Pakistan defending a total is the light, Pakistan chasing a total the dark. Any subversion is disorientating certainly, but it also feels somehow treasonous.

So when Pakistan were not panicking through the 96.1 overs after the seven overs of initial panic in Pallekele, to their players, coaches and all of us out here, it felt as if the earth had straightened itself up on its axis. Wellington was a little like this, when Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana, as he was then, chased down 274. There was so little drama in what was then Pakistan's second highest chase that it threw off Inzamam. He didn't take the extra half-hour on the fourth evening when they needed only 28 and heavy rains were forecast for the next day. They got them in 3.5 overs on the final day, but after rain delays that pushed the start of play to noon and must have killed Inzamam each minute he sat inside.

It would come, that moment of darkness, when Tharindu Kaushal came on. It would come when the second new ball came. It would definitely come when Shan Masood danced down the pitch and allowed one end to open up.

It never came and the waiting was torture and it was eerie. The sense that something was off was only enhanced by the lack of exuberance upon the win, as if in those fairly genteel surroundings, it had not actually happened.

Pakistan chased 377 - this was not just their highest chase and sixth-highest by anyone but their highest total in the fourth innings of a Test ever. Yet Younis Khan, this older, more serious Younis, walked off as if he had chased down 23. There's no point in looking at Misbah-ul-Haq at these moments: had Pakistan folded for 23 he would have looked exactly as he always does. He did.

Where was the fist-pumping and the joyous, unbelieving sajdas? Where was the hurtling on to the ground to pile on the winning batsmen? Where were those strangled yelps of delight and tight embraces, acknowledging not only a win but a historic win? People shook hands and maybe hugged awkwardly. It was so British even the British abandoned it years ago.

What would really have driven it home was for an Azhar Ali, or a Sarfraz Ahmed or Ahmed Shehzad to be there at the end. What could make for a better celebration after all, than a selfie with a match stump? Anything to make this less ethereal. Instead there was so much calm right through to the finish that even now it's still reasonable to expect they will crumble to 400 all out by lunch tomorrow.

What was very real about it was Younis, though. We often locate a batsman by searching for the innings that is most appropriate to his entire career, the one we suspect gives him closure and lets him sleep warmly after he has gone. The 267 in Bangalore was one, though that was always the innings of a coming man, not fully clear in outline but acquiring the shape that would explain him. The triple in Karachi is almost meh as far as triple hundreds go. But this - this is the one. His crazy, his daring, his energy, his selflessness, his belief, his steel; this was a distillation of every essence of Younis into a single innings. It matches perfectly the portrayal of Younis in his own mind, as well as in those of all his admirers: Younis, in other words, has never been more Younis than in this innings.

Last year, when Pakistan chased down 302 in Sharjah, remarkable as it was, it still was a very Pakistani moment. To be so otherworldly-thrilling in such an impossible situation is a familiar response and there was neither time to panic or be calm. There was only time to do. It was unusual and significant statistically, of course, but familiar. Because of how quietly and serenely Pakistan chased in Pallekele, it will take longer to believe. Then will have to be digested the fact that this batting era for Pakistan has produced two 300-plus chases in just over a year. And then the bizarro fact that they now have more entries in the top 30 Test chases of all time than India (though both India's chases are higher).