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‘Old boys’ Younis, Misbah flay West Indies

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Younis Khan’s 33rd Test hundred gave Pakistan the ideal first-day platform in the second Test against West Indies, lifting them from an uneasy 42 for 2 to a commanding 304 for 4 at stumps. Returning to the side after missing the day-night Test in Dubai to recover from a bout of dengue fever, Younis looked like he had never been away.

 

He added 87 with Asad Shafiq for the third wicket, and 175 for the fourth with Misbah-ul-Haq, as Pakistan ground down a limited West Indies attack in typically benign first-day conditions in Abu Dhabi.

 

Younis made 127 before he fell in the 84th over of the day, slog-sweeping Kraigg Brathwaite’s part-time offspin to deep midwicket. It turned out to be the last ball of the day, with the umpires ruling that the light had faded too much to continue just as the nightwatchman Yasir Shah walked in to the middle.

 

Misbah, who already has five hundreds in Abu Dhabi and averaged 99.77 at the ground before this innings, went to stumps batting on 90.

 

West Indies’ bowlers endured a long and largely thankless day on the field, made worse by two costly misses. In the last over before tea, Kraigg Brathwaite failed to hold on to a return catch off a firmly-hit flat-bat drive when Younis was on 83.

Younis Khan gathers off-side runs on the opening day
Younis Khan gathers off-side runs on the opening day

Then, batting on 54 in the eleventh over after tea, Misbah nicked a ball from Shannon Gabriel that straightened in the corridor. Wicketkeeper Shai Hope, having initially moved in the wrong direction, dived low to his right behind the stumps, and the ball bounced out of his right glove.

 

Gabriel bowled impressively in patches, picking up two wickets and generating reverse-swing with the old ball, but the rest of West Indies’ bowling didn’t make much of an impact. Miguel Cummins and Jason Holder made up somewhat for their lack of incision by conceding less than three runs an over, but the spinners were neither threatening nor economical. Among them, Devendra Bishoo, Roston Chase and Brathwaite conceded 181 runs at an economy rate of 4.41.

 

Having chosen to bat first, Pakistan lost their first wicket in the fifth over of the morning, Azhar Ali playing on while looking to drive Gabriel through the covers, the ball nipping in a little and not quite coming on to the bat.

 

Walking in at No. 3, Shafiq got going almost immediately, rising to his toes to cut Gabriel for four off the second ball he faced. In the next over, he punished another short ball, this time swivelling to pull Miguel Cummins through square leg.

 

Shafiq continued to play his shots, moving confidently forward to ease drives through the covers and nimbly back to cut and pull deliveries from Bishoo that were only marginally short. As he sparkled at one end, Sami Aslam played a strange innings at the other.

 

He seldom got the strike, and barely scored any runs when he did, while not looking particularly troubled by any of West Indies’ bowlers. By the end of the 13th over, he was batting on 6 off 28 balls and Shafiq on 32 off 44. Then, off the second ball of the 14th over, he looked to drive Bishoo through the covers, against the turn, and was bowled through the gate by a dipping legbreak.

 

In walked Younis, back in the side after missing the first Test to recover from a bout of dengue fever. He got an early freebie from Bishoo, wide and overpitched, to smear through the covers, but that was his only boundary in the 62 balls he faced before lunch, as West Indies tightened their lines and lengths. There was little in the conditions to challenge either batsman, and Younis moved safely to 29 without always looking at ease.

 

His shuffle across the crease caused him a couple of uneasy moments: Cummins found his leading edge while he tried to work through the leg side, and Jason Holder got him to nick the ball when he moved across rather than forward, towards the ball in defence, but both balls fell safely short of fielders.

 

Soon after lunch, Younis nearly played on to Cummins; defending firmly into the pitch, he had to stretch his left foot out to kick the ball away as it rolled back towards the stumps. But he grew increasingly comfortable at the crease after that, and took heavy toll of the spinners, pouncing on anything cuttable, and driving through the covers with and against the turn, the pick of his shots an inside-out loft over extra-cover off Chase’s offspin.

Misbah-ul-Haq extended his golden run at the venue
Misbah-ul-Haq extended his golden run at the venue

Shafiq fell in the ninth over after lunch, chopping on while trying to force Gabriel through the covers off the back foot. Gabriel was reversing the ball both ways in this spell, and beat both of Misbah’s edges soon after he came to the crease, but Holder took him off after a spell of only three overs. The longest spell Gabriel bowled all day lasted four overs.

 

With West Indies’ main threat out of the way, Misbah began enjoying himself, greeting Bishoo’s reintroduction by pulling his third ball, a rank long-hop, over midwicket for four, and then, three balls later, launching a flighted ball high over the long-on boundary.

 

Younis and Misbah took 40 runs off Bishoo’s eight-over spell before tea, shutting the door in West Indies’ faces right after Gabriel had opened it a crack with the wicket of Shafiq. Misbah only hit six boundaries in his innings: four of them came off Bishoo, of whom he took 37 runs in 40 balls.

 

Post-tea, West Indies went into defensive mode, getting Cummins to bowl wide outside off stump with a packed off-side field. But the tactic didn’t really stem Pakistan’s run flow; there was no movement available to him, and plenty of large spaces in the vast outfield for Misbah and Younis to push the ball into for twos.

 

After four overs, Cummins gave way to Gabriel; he found Misbah’s edge in his second over, and Hope – playing this Test match because Shane Dowrich pulled up injured in training – put the chance down.

 

Pakistan were 242 for 3 at that stage, and 242 for 4 may just have rattled them given they were playing five bowlers. Instead, Misbah and Younis added a further 62. (ESPNCricinfo)

 

Cover photo caption: Younis Khan acknowledges his 33rd Test ton

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