x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Butt gets the message from Younus

Banned 'indefinitely' earlier this year, Younus Khan's experience and 131 runs saves Pakistan the Test against South Africa in Dubai.

Younus Khan raises his bat and helmet as he celebrates his century.
Younus Khan raises his bat and helmet as he celebrates his century.

DUBAI // Class, as an oft-repeated cliché goes, is permanent. Ijaz Butt, the president of the Pakistan Cricket Board, was given a stark reminder of that yesterday by the man he almost banished from international cricket, Younus Khan.

Banned "indefinitely" for some mysterious reason earlier this year, Younus returned to Test cricket with aplomb, showing the champion that he still is and the grace under pressure that makes men like him greats.

Younus scripted a defiant unbeaten 131, his 17th Test century, to save the first Test against South Africa at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium yesterday.

On an engrossing final day, with Pakistan chasing a record 451 for victory, he brought every ounce of his 63-Test experience into play to frustrate South Africa's bid for victory and helped his team post their highest-ever score in the fourth innings of a Test: 343 for three.

The Proteas were forced to give up their bid with 14 overs still remaining for the end of play. Pakistan were 108 runs short of their target and South Africa needed seven wickets, but Graeme Smith deemed both tasks improbable. His attack was grounded on a lifeless track by the 186-run unbeaten stand between Younus and Misbah-ul-Haq.

"Generally, we could have closed that game down at any stage," Smith, the South Africa captain, said. "I knew it would be tough to bowl them out [in the] second innings. The wicket got a lot slower as the game went on. I think once the batter got in, it was very difficult to get him out. We needed to create some early chances this morning, which we didn't.

"I guess we are a little bit disappointed we couldn't close it off, but it was always going to be a big push I think.

"Once Younus got in, he batted superbly well. Credit to him for his knock."

This was Younus's first Test since July, 2009. He had missed four series since. He opted out of the Tests in New Zealand and Australia due to "personal" reasons, following his resignation from the Pakistan captaincy after a player revolt.

In March this year, he was banned for still unknown reasons and missed the Test series against Australia and England. Wisdom, however, eventually dawned on the mandarins of Pakistan cricket and the ban was reversed.

Younus was absent for 12 Tests and Pakistan had lost eight of them. It would not be difficult to imagine a similar result for the "home" side yesterday if Younus was not in their midst.

Younus added 82 runs with Azhar Ali (63) for the third wicket, but it was his partnership with Misbah (76 not out), which really shut South Africa out. They batted for 57 overs, adding 186 runs through a mix of caution and aggression, which kept South Africa guessing about Pakistan's intentions - to go for a win or save the game.

The South Africa bowlers and fielders did try to distract him with some chatter. The batsman reacted and a few words were exchanged in the middle, but Younus remained unperturbed. And, as batsmen of his class are wont to do, he gave a befitting riposte.

He reached three-figures with a six, deliberately lofted, it seems, into the one stand packed with Pakistan fans.

It was his first three-figure score since the 313 he made against Sri Lanka in February last year.

"A world-class player is always world class and he just proved it again," said Misbah, praising Younus. "He is a wonderful team man and played another great innings. I always love to bat with him. We have really enjoyed a lot of partnerships and this was one of them.

"Our plan, for every batsman, was to try to stay on the crease for as long as possible and stay positive, not just get stuck there. Thankfully, it worked for us and we were able to save the game."

The second Test in Abu Dhabi starts on Saturday.

 

arizvi@thenational.ae