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Kamran Abbasi

Batting: Pakistan's surprise weapon

An inexperienced bowling attack may have stunned Australia, but the batting had a bigger impact on the result, led by the genial Younis Khan

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi
Younis Khan tends to get the best out of his colleagues, as his twin centuries in Dubai showed  •  AFP

Younis Khan tends to get the best out of his colleagues, as his twin centuries in Dubai showed  •  AFP

Abandoning hope brings its benefits. All expectations are banished, any capacity for disappointment is exhausted. Exiled from a home in political tumult, shorn of world-class bowlers and any decent back-ups, trapped in a downward spiral of shocking form and results, the moment to abandon hope in the fortunes of Pakistan cricket was upon us. Except, the cricketers of Pakistan had not abandoned hope. They shook themselves free from a spiral of negativity. They found new heroes in men of inexperience. The cricketers of Pakistan created a tumultuous victory in their home in exile. It may be judged to be the most surprising performance ever.
A win in the results table doesn't tell the full story. Pakistan utterly dominated Australia, for session after session, day after day. This wasn't any team, this was Australia. And Australia fought. They might have struggled in the heat but Australia isn't exactly Alaska. They might have lulled themselves into false confidence but they should have shaken such complacency after the second day, if not the first. Australia fought with all their power to save this Test but it wasn't enough to touch Pakistan's performance. For once we can unequivocally say that Pakistan were that formidable. The cricketers of Pakistan were so good that Marais Erasmus, in an unprecedented act in the history of Test cricket, scrutinised the heavens for evidence of divine intervention before raising his finger at Peter Siddle and ending Australia's agony.
The unsung bowlers of Pakistan were impressive. Zulfiqar Babar, a kindly uncle in the grand tradition of Iqbal Qasim, mesmerised when mesmerism wasn't expected to feature in his straight-laced bag of tricks. Yasir Shah impressed on debut with energy and occasional vicious turn, which won over Shane Warne. If Yasir's first-innings dismissal of David Warner was a straight ball - Darren Lehmann take note - then Warne's Ball of the Century was a little drifter. Imran Khan had his moments too, including a yorker of which his namesake, the Great Khan, as well as Umar Gul, the less great man he most resembles, would have been equally proud.
True, this wasn't Pakistan's most threatening Test attack - we've had some poor ones, especially in the Packer years - but this merry band of bowlers had a weight of runs to play with that more celebrated colleagues have rarely been blessed with. Indeed, the key to dominating this game were the Pakistan batsmen. We usually yearn for a solitary century in a Test. Four? That sounds like a home Test in the 1980s. We saw contributions from the middle order, a decent opening stand, and centuries from an opener and a wicketkeeper. These were the batsmen of Pakistan but not as we know them. Treasure the memory, it might be some time before we are presented with such a sumptuous feast again.
Misbah-ul Haq will certainly savour this week's work; he answered his critics in the form of cricket that matters most. So too will Younis Khan, whose record-breaking achievements now place him at the head of all Pakistani batsmen for centuries scored. Whether he is the best ever is a debate for another day but the achievements of Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul Haq, even Hanif Mohammad, are difficult to better by statistics alone. Honour enough, though, that the merits of Pakistan's loose-limbed stylist are in that discussion. He has time on his side to win the argument.
We usually yearn for a solitary century in a Test. Four? That sounds like a home Test in the 1980s
Younis now rivals Michael Clarke as one of the best players of spin in world cricket. Even against pace, on these wickets, he was in command. A lofted cover drive off Mitchell Johnson was the shot of the match. Not that Younis' courage has ever been in doubt. He is brave, a fighter. Few batsmen would stand out of their crease against Johnson as Younis did. His stance and first movements are orthodox, almost classical. But somehow he often ends a stroke in an unorthodox position, with a wonderful eye, fast footwork, and that loose-limbed style coming to his rescue.
It is easy to forget that Younis is Pakistan's other World Cup-winning captain. When Pakistan won the T20 title in 2009, the future looked to be his. But he stepped back; in his moment in the limelight he announced his retirement from international T20 cricket, laughingly calling it "fun cricket" and "WWE". He had walked away from the captaincy before, despite the backing of Bob Woolmer, and did so again afterwards, when he lacked the support of his team-mates. You might conclude this to be the behaviour of a fragile man, a ditherer, a leader of little confidence. Many people did, insulting Younis for his betrayal. Others, his supporters mainly, were angry and bemused that a man so fit to lead favoured life in the shadows. But Younis pulled away when the mood music disturbed him. On one occasion he went AFWOL - Absent Fishing Without Leave. This was not weakness. It was strength. Strength in his convictions, in his sense of what was right. Younis' instincts served him well. Like a great Test innings, he played the long game while others shot their bolts and their reputations.
Younis Khan's is a complex life and cricket career, filled with personal tragedy and professional differences. He is a man of principle whose disputes have generally been misconstrued. He may be the most wronged man in Pakistan cricket, mistreated by the cricket board, fellow players, and the cricket public. Yet, you wouldn't know it. He brings smiles and enthusiasm to any contest. He guides and coaxes the best out of his colleagues. When Younis plays well, others tend to raise their game. He doesn't crave acclaim but he is finally receiving the recognition that a magnificent career in adversity is owed. If anybody knows what it means to be a cricketer of Pakistan, it is Younis Khan, the "secret star of the international game".

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. @KamranAbbasi