KARACHI: At 13 for two on the fourth afternoon of an absorbing Pallekele Test, Pakistan were staring down the barrel. Imagine the pressure rookie Shan Masood, castigated for his ‘connections’ in the cricket board, was facing. With a solitary fifty to show in his first four Tests, a failure here would have certainly brought curtains to his immediate Test future.
The task was as enormous as it gets, 377 in fourth innings of a Test, a batting line-up that blows hot and cold twice a week, surely even the most extravagant bettor would have had second thoughts about a possible punt here.
Moments before Azhar Ali’s dismissal, Masood had seen Ahmed Shehzad’s off-stump uprooted by Suranga Lakmal. As Azhar walked back to the dressing room having wafted at a ball way down the leg-side, the glum looking Masood searched for a saviour, a mentor, a guiding force that would hold his hand and pull him out of the depths of despair he found himself in.
Read: Out of the blue: Masood, Younus miracle drags back Pakistan
One is sure that Masood would have been mighty relieved to see the mentor he truly reveres walk down the Pallekele dressing room to replace Azhar in the middle. His head would have flashbacked the memories of those endless hours at the Quaid-e-Azam park in Steel Town where Masood had picked Younis’s brain only days before breaking into the Test team.
One could sense that Younis’s arrival and a few words of assurance calmed Masood greatly. The ugly prods and plods were steadily replaced by punchy back-foot and front-foot shots. The flowing drives, cuts and some authoritative pulls raised some alarms for Angelo Mathews but before he knew Masood was past his fifty.
Younis blossomed at the other end, the fourth innings maestro, the batting colossus; rather quite simply the best Pakistan Test batsman of all time was not going to let this one slip. Tea was taken on the fourth day with Masood on 52 and Younis on 41, with 99 runs on the board and only two wickets lost, a flicker of hope for the dotting Pakistan cricket fan had emerged.
The final day of the session was likely to be the trickiest, turns out it was arguably the darkest in Mathews’ still fledging captaincy. Tharanga Kaushal, the man Mathews was banking so heavily on, was taken out of the equation by the unflappable Younis and now almost serene and unruffled Masood.
Stumps were drawn with both the master and the novice past the century mark; a partnership between the protagonist and the prodigy had from nowhere razed the hometown heroes. Masood fell on the fifth morning, but Younis was one indestructible object and in company of his captain and mate Misbahul Haq, the Mardan maestro sealed Sri Lanka’s fate.
Read: Masood and Younus stitch team, individual records
The Masood-Younis alliance yielded a Pakistan record 242 runs in the fourth innings, in the all-time biggest match winning partnerships list in the fourth innings the pair is positioned at the fourth spot, Masood, 125 and Younis 171 not out.
Younis’s quantum leap to greatness
In terms of fourth innings heists, the 171 run unbeaten Younis epic has placed him at the top of the batsmen with big returns in the fourth innings of a Test match.
For now Younis is the only batsman to have scored five hundreds in the fourth innings of a Test, if that isn’t enough, his average of 60.59 is the best all-time average for batsmen with more than 1000 runs in the fourth innings, with a total of 1333 runs in 33 innings.
Younis has returned not out 11 times at the end of a fourth innings, which is the most for a batsman from Pakistan.
His Pallekele innings is the highest by a Pakistan batsman in a fourth innings of a Test and the fifth all-time highest in successful chase.
The four men above him on the list include Gordon Greenidge, Arthur Morris, Don Bradman and Mark Butcher. Younis is now 18 runs adrift of Javed Miandad’s Pakistan record of 8832 runs, his current batting average of 54.07 is already the best ever for his country.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.