Pakistan's start to the Test series against India was far from ideal, but the one heartening aspect was that a batsman other than one of the two Ys stepped up when the team desperately needed at least one of the top six to fire. For too long, Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and the recently retired Inzamam-ul-Haq have carried the batting. In this line-up one ul-Haq has replaced another, and Pakistan will be thrilled if Misbah translates his recent successes in Twenty20 and one-day cricket into the Test arena as well.
Since Younis returned to the Test team in October 2004, he along with Yousuf and Inzamam, has been head and shoulders above the rest of the Pakistan batsmen, which the table below confirms. Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik have done reasonably well, but the other specialist batsmen - Imran Farhat, Salman Butt, Yasir Hameed and Mohammad Hafeez, to name a few - have all had very modest success.
Most teams tend to rely on three or four batsmen more than others, but in Pakistan's case the difference between the contribution of the three stars and the rest is stark. In the 19 Tests that Yousuf, Younis and Inzamam have played during this period, they've averaged 61.24, scored more than 52% of the team's total runs and 78% of the hundreds. Remove the three from the equation, and Pakistan have only averaged 24 runs per wicket.
In these 19 Tests Pakistan have won seven, and lost and drawn six each. Younis and Inzamam have been the outstanding performers in victories, but it's remarkable how poorly Inzamam has performed in games Pakistan have lost. From an average of 80 in victories, his mean score plummets to 16 in defeats.
Let's look at how Pakistan's reliance on the super trio compares with other teams' dependence on their three best batsmen during the same period. Clearly, the team of Yousuf, Younis and Inzamam have outperformed the group of champion batsmen from other teams. Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan have, in the Tests that all three have played, scored almost 50% of the team's runs, at an average touching 55; the rest of the team, on the other hand, have averaged less than 26. The numbers for South Africa are similar - Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince have averaged 54, more than double the average of the rest of the team.
Australia's case is something else, and it demonstrates why they are so far ahead of the rest: their top three, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, average 52, but the rest of their batsmen are hardly laggards - they average nearly 34 too, which is significantly higher than the corresponding average for the other teams. India's Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag have scored only 44.5% of their team's runs - much lower than the corresponding 52.25% for Pakistan - which indicates that India's support cast has contributed relatively more runs than Pakistan's. Further down the list, the numbers for England and New Zealand indicate that the runs have been shared around much more equitably. And the fact that Daniel Vettori makes it into the list of top three New Zealand run-scorers shows just how miserably inadequate their top-order batting has been.
Murali loses his magic
It was supposed to be the series in which Muttiah Muralitharan would go past Shane Warne and become the world's leading wicket-taker in Test cricket. As it turned out, he didn't even come close. The Australian batsmen played him so well that Murali ended up with just four wickets from 116 overs. His average of 100 is the fourth-most expensive in a series for Sri Lanka among bowlers who bowled at least 100 overs in the series. Murali himself has been there once before - against India a decade ago - but that was before he discovered the variations that have made him such a fearsome prospect in international cricket.
The table below lists the five most expensive bowling averages in a series for Sri Lanka. Asoka de Silva, now an international umpire, makes two appearances, while Chaminda Vaas takes the other slot.