Pakistan v Australia, 2014-15
Wisden's review of the first Test, Pakistan v Australia, 2014-15
At Dubai, October 22-26, 2014. Pakistan won by 221 runs. Toss: Pakistan. Test debuts: Imran Khan, Yasir Shah; M. R. Marsh, S. N. J. O'Keefe.
Rarely does a Test seem to pass by these days without serving as an audition for all-time greatness for one batsman or another. Here it was the turn of Younis Khan. Pakistan fans had long known he was great. They cite his remarkable fourth-innings figures (by the end of this series, his average was nearly 53); his conversion-rate (27 hundreds and 28 fifties); and his average outside Asia (over 45). They know that he scores runs when they are most needed; that he is probably Pakistan's greatest partnership-maker, often with Mohammad Yousuf, more recently with Misbah-ul-Haq; and that if you want to reach a
maiden hundred, Younis is the man to have at the other end.
Outside Pakistan, admiration for him has been a little lost amid the stream of Indian batting geniuses and the two Sri Lankan masters. Clarke summed it up, expressing surprise that Younis - "a gentleman of our game" - was playing only his 92nd Test, having marked his debut with a century early in 2000.
Even non-Pakistanis had to sit up and take notice after this match. Younis was the key in a magnificently unexpected Pakistan triumph. His twin hundreds took him past Inzamam-ul-Haq (25) as their leading century-maker. He became the seventh Pakistani to score a hundred in each innings, and the first from anywhere to do so against Australia for more than 40 years - though he started something of a trend. For good measure, he was the first Pakistani to reach three figures against all nine Test nations.
Younis's first-day century set the tone for the series: Pakistan, it shouted, would not crumble. They had been in danger of doing just that when he walked in at seven for two in the fourth over. But, in partnership with Azhar Ali and Misbah, Younis steadied the innings - slowly, for sure, but with purpose.
Slow has usually been Pakistan's way in the UAE, and it has reaped success. But there was a delicious irony in wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed's second-day hundred. It was an innings straight out of the Adam Gilchrist manual, ripping the game away from the opposition just when they had a sniff. He reached three figures in 80 balls, then Pakistan's fourth-quickest hundred; among keepers, only Gilchrist had got there faster. Rogers and Warner stood firm, against a bowling attack looking every bit as inexperienced as two debutants (and eight Tests between the four frontliners) would suggest. It was the first Test Pakistan had played without Saeed Ajmal since May 2011.
He had been suspended by the ICC for an illegal bowling action. Pakistan had also lost Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz to injury. But once Rogers played on, an end was opened up, and the bowlers could expose Australia's weakness against spin in Asian conditions. Pakistan, though, still had to get past Warner, a batsman of a genius so unique it was impossible to expect his team-mates to replicate it. He made a third century in successive Test innings, following two in his previous match, at Cape Town. After scoring 133 - the next best in the innings was 38 from Rogers - Warner was finally beaten by a ripping leg-break from the debutant Yasir Shah, about whom Shane Warne tweeted approvingly and perceptively throughout the series.
Once Pakistan had secured a substantial lead, the game was up. Younis's second hundred was freer in mood, and helped Ahmed Shehzad to one of his own. "When I was not out on 22," said Shehzad, "Younis told me: 'I waited 12 years for my century against Australia - make sure you don't do that.'"
It was the kind of fatherly selflessness for which Pakistan loves him. And when Yasir and slow left-armer Zulfiqar Babar delivered victory, seven overs after tea on the fifth day, they had reason to fete Younis even more. Zulfiqar finally clinched the win - and his maiden Test five-for, a few weeks short of his 36th birthday.
Man of the Match: Younis Khan.