After a dull first day, it was a stroke-filled and eventful second day at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium when Pakistan amassed a mammoth 493 and proceeded to turn the screws on the West Indies. Yousuf Youhana, who looked good for his second double ton, fell on 146, while surprise package Rashid Latif top-scored with 150 - his maiden Test ton. Yet, with all the clean hitting and sensible batting, there were too few pairs of eyes to witness the action. For a second disappointing day, the fans stayed away from the ground, leaving the thump of willow on leather to echo in hollow fashion from the rows of empty stands.
In response to Pakistan's daunting score, West Indies managed 54/0 from 18 well-negotiated overs as the light faded, with Chris Gayle (41, 7 fours) playing some pretty drives through the offside. Tomorrow, however, will require the West Indian batting to show a lot of character if they are to pull things back in this match.
Beginning the day on 78, Youhana moved from strength to strength, driving magnificently back past the bowler. The inform middle-order bat, who came into this Test with over 2500 runs at an average of 47 in 57 innings, capitalised on a good opportunity and made those statistics look even better. In the 107th over of the innings, Youhana slanted a full Pedro Collins delivery outside the off-stump to the third-man boundary to notch up his ninth Test ton. It was an innings that made all the difference to the balance of the game.
Youhana may have been the man who did most of the damage, but it would be an injustice to not put on the record the contribution of Latif. Although he has always been a man for crisis situations, Latif has seldom been viewed as a threat by the opposition. The West Indies too seemed to make that mistake and allowed Latif to get well-entrenched on a wicket that, by the end of the first session on the second day, had got slower and lower. Pacing his knock well, Latif played second fiddle to Youhana for the best part of his innings before cutting loose when required.
When Youhana finally made a mistake, it was already far too late for the West Indies. Helping himself to 146 of the finest runs (276 balls, 18 fours, one six), Youhana made certain that the Pakistan bowling would have enough in the bank when they took the field. Latif, however, remained unperturbed even as he saw Cameron Cuffy clean-bowl Youhana. He had reason to motor on without breaking a sweat, for the stand of 204 he shared with Youhana changed the complexion of the game completely. Coming off just 57 overs at a rate of almost a run a minute, it took Pakistan to 382/6. Sadly for the West Indies, there was more where that came from.
Latif, who has made five half-centuries, including one tantalisingly close to the three-figure mark - 94 - against Bangladesh not three weeks ago, notched up his maiden hundred when he swept Hinds to fine leg in the 128th over of the innings. Taking his helmet off, Latif sported a broad grin, waving his bat to the dressing rooms in the absence of any sizeable crowd.
The stumper went on to make life increasingly dreary for the West Indies, taking his maiden Test ton on to an even 150 (234 balls, 18 fours, one six) before being bowled by part-time off-spinner Gayle. There was more success for Gayle, who mopped up 3/27 when the Pakistani batsmen gave the bowling the full treatment in an attempt to score quickly and begin bowling. Skipper Waqar Younis (25*) and Shoaib Akhtar (20) clouted the bowling with gay abandon as 45 runs resulted in the last 7.5 overs.
Do spare a thought, though, for Mervyn Dillon. The 27-year-old Trinidad fast bowler bowled his heart out, sending down 42 overs that resulted in figures of 3/140 on a lifeless wicket. Then again, he can take heart from the fact that he is not the first fast bowler to think of his profession as thankless after a long stint out in the middle at Sharjah. And you can be sure that he will not be the last either.