Younus, Misbah tons peg Sri Lanka back

Pakistan takes 123-run lead by close of second day’s play with six first-innings wickets still in hand.

Pakistan seems to be identifying a set pattern for success at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. It is early days yet in its tenancy at the venue, but in five Tests, including the ongoing one, it is hard not to see it.

Bowl first if the chance presents itself. Surprise the opponents by making use of a pitch that is kind to bowlers who know how it works early in a Test (though not as much as the plentiful grass on it suggests). Bowl them out cheaply. Bat patiently and sensibly, bat big. Then bowl them out cheaply under pressure of runs the second time round.

This has only actually worked once, against South Africa earlier this season, and the sample size is small. But Pakistan have not lost at the venue. In the draw against Sri Lanka two years ago and, already, a potential triumph here, it is compelling.

On the first day, Pakistan had accomplished the first part, bowling Sri Lanka out for 204. On Wednesday (January 1), it began implementing the second: a 218-run stand between Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq led Pakistan to 327 for 4, a lead already of 123.

This union between the two is a prolific one: the stand was the eighth century partnership between the two, who have a combined age of 76 years. It was an important one as it came when Pakistan was tottering just a little bit at 83 for 3, having lost two wickets in the morning.

Younus and Misbah began carefully but cashed in during the post-lunch session, adding 130 runs at over four an over. “We lost back-to-back wickets, so it was needed to hang in there as senior players and we did that exactly,” said Younus after his 136, which put him level with Javed Miandad as Pakistan’s third-most prolific century-maker.

“They were bowling well at that time and the wicket was suitable for fast bowling. When you have a partnership and play a session and get 50-60 runs, everything goes wrong for the other team and that’s what happened. We had a big partnership and then we were getting easy singles after that.”

Misbah took his time, getting to a fifth Test hundred and second consecutive one at the venue three overs before the close of play. It did not matter that Pakistan slowed after Younus’s exit; things were pretty much going to plan.

(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)