Younis and Yousuf flay India

Pakistan’s batsmen laid waste to everything India could throw at them on Day 1 of the highly-anticipated series, which began at Lahore today. Younis Khan made a scintillating unbeaten 147, with Mohammad Yousuf nearing his own century on 95* at the close, as Pakistan piled up 326-2 in 85 overs before stumps were drawn. Younis struck 19 boundaries in his four-hour innings, and Yousuf helped him out with 11 boundaries of his own, plus a six.

The morning began with a story which got everyone talking – the inclusion of Sourav Ganguly in the Indian side, at the expense of opener Gautam Gambhir. Calls from former great Sunil Gavaskar for India to play three openers to combat the threat of Pakistan’s new-ball attack were ignored, and indeed India went into the game with only one recognised opener in Virender Sehwag. The expectation was that Rahul Dravid, or perhaps even Ganguly himself, would step up the order to fill the gap.

There were no surprises in the Pakistan side – Shoaib Malik was once again confirmed to open with Salman Butt, and Younis Khan returned to the side at the expense of Asim Kamal, having missed the final Test of the series against England. Inzamam-ul-Haq skippers the side at a ground where he averages 122.50 in his last five Tests, including an innings of 329 against New Zealand in 2001-02.

Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat on what looked a fairly placid pitch – and although the Indian seam bowlers posed few problems early on, it didn’t take long for the breakthrough to come. An inspired piece of fielding by Yuvraj Singh at short leg to run out Salman Butt (6) – with a fantastic swooping pick-up-and-throw – provided Pakistan with a crucial early wicket.

This dismissal brought Younis Khan to the wicket and he was soon batting with authority, driving and sweeping effectively against both seam and spin. He survived an lbw appeal from Irfan Pathan, and continued building a partnership with Malik, who imposed himself on the bowling by launching Harbhajan Singh for a big six over midwicket, and bringing up a welcome half-century just before the lunch break. India’s seamers – Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, and medium-pacer Ganguly struggled to find much movement as Pakistan went in at 110 for 1 at the interval, with both batsmen going well and the Indian bowlers toiling somewhat.

India enjoyed some success just after the lunch break, with Irfan Pathan managing to dismiss Malik (59), having him caught by Harbhajan to leave Pakistan on 136-2. This brought Mohammad Yousuf to the crease, who was in no mood to leave anyone uncertain as to his intentions. He set off scoring runs at a good pace allowing Younis to progress at the other end. Yousuf was particularly brutal toward the Indian spinners, managing a six of his own, and clouting five other boundaries on his way to a half-century shortly after the tea break.

The real story, however, was Younis, who showed imperious form in attacking the Indian bowlers either side of the tea interval. Both Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble found themselves with economy rates of more than four runs an over, as the Pakistan vice-captain progressed to his 10th Test match century. He had been left stuck on 90 during the tea break, but was obviously not suffering from nerves as he emerged to complete his ton shortly afterwards.

The partnership between Younis and Yousuf continued through the evening session, with both batsmen playing shots all around the wicket, with none of the four front-line bowlers being spared punishment. Rahul Dravid brought Virender Sehwag’s off-breaks into the attack to try to break the concentration of the Pakistani top order batsmen, but to no avail, as Mohammad Yousuf’s aggressive approach continued to pay dividends on his home ground.

Dravid took the second new ball immediately after 80 overs had passed, but Pathan and Agarkar were unable to break the partnership between the two experienced heads. The five overs after the new ball resulted in 30 runs for the batsmen – and also produced a dropped catch from Virender Sehwag at point from Yousuf, adding to the Indians’ woes.

Pakistan comprehensively dominated the first day of this series, with the current partnership standing at 190 so far. India’s bowlers will have to find some penetration somehow tomorrow – or they could find themselves batted out of the game, with their captain’s words on the importance of going 1-0 up in a three-Test series still ringing in their ears.

Pakistan 326-2 (85 overs)
Younis 147*, Yousuf 95*, Malik 59; Pathan 1-76

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