Younis to the rescue, again

Younis Khan's assured footwork helped him blunt the spinners Associated Press

Ignore the opening slot and it seems churlish to find a flaw in Pakistan's performance on the first day. Younis Khan's 24th Test hundred, putting him one ton short of Inzamam-ul-Haq's Pakistan record, was a typical rescue act after the openers slipped up.

The defining factor was the control throughout his unbeaten 133, though there were a couple of close lbw calls. There were hardly any loose deliveries, but he was patient and capitalised well, waiting for the right one. He was especially aggressive against the offspinner Dilruwan Perera, using the sweep and reverse-sweep well as he hit him for 48 off 43 balls.

His century was a reminder of his value to the Pakistan set up, coming soon after the controversy over him being dropped from category A to B in the central contracts. He was promoted back to the top category, though, and was later handed an ODI recall as well.

"You know Younis, how good he is," the Pakistan head coach Waqar Younis said. "I think this is what the coach and captain would want, and he is a man who (you can count on) to rescue the team and as usual he played superbly. With the (runs today) he broke another record getting up among the greatest players Pakistan have produced. Indeed a superb knock from him today."

Younis is playing his 90th Test and turns 37 later this year, but remains one of the fitter members of the side. "The amount of cricket going on around the world, we need to make sure that we are fit," Waqar said. "Especially when you are on wrong side of 30 or 40 you really need to stay on toes every time … he's shown the way, if you stay fit you can play cricket at any level."

Pakistan has long struggled with an inconsistent top order, and today was no different as the openers Ahmed Shehzad and Khurram Manzoor proved brittle and the responsibility once again was on the experienced men in the middle order. Younis anchored two century stands, with Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq, to ensure Pakistan ended the day on a strong footing.

Waqar, however, wasn't worried about the openers, citing their inexperience. "I don't think so that (there is any point of concern) ... there was some juice in the pitch this morning and the ball swung a little bit. These guys have done well in the past and one has got to understand that they are relatively new at this level and it is going to take some time for them to adjust at this level. Hopefully we are going to provide them (the opportunity) and stick by them."

One batsman Pakistan have persisted with is Asad Shafiq, who repaid that faith with an unbeaten 55, marking a return to form after a listless series against Sri Lanka in the UAE. He is among the more technically correct batsmen in the team, and this innings should help stave off the competition from Umar Akmal for the No. 6 spot.

A six and a four off Herath early on helped Shafiq settle. He has sometimes been guilty of throwing away his wicket after getting a start, but he didn't give it away today. "There was always a question mark hanging on his neck as a No. 6 batsman," Waqar said, backing Shafiq's inclusion. "He is a superb talent, and the way he batted under pressure is outstanding."

It was a gloomy day in Galle, with clouds constantly around, and the start was delayed due to a wet outfield. Pakistan gambled by opting to bat, and the early loss of their openers raised questions over the decision. Waqar, however, was happy that Pakistan chose to bat.

"When it rains at certain grounds and the ground is covered for long time there is bound to be some juice in the wicket," he said. "With such conditions there are always doubts and thoughts about what exactly we should do but it was a brave move by the management and by the captain. It wasn't an easy pitch to start with but the guys stuck in and once things got easier we made full use of it."