You can’t keep a champion down indefinitely. That’s what we learned today. Thus far this summer Younus Khan has batted like Bambi on ice. His footwork has been terrible. He seemed to be doing the charleston, the samba and some kind of Peshawar paso doble all at once.
However, today he looked a lot more comfortable at the crease. There were no extravagant movements, no jerks and a far less pronounced crouch as the bowler ran in. As a result we saw the real Younus Khan: the man who’s scored 30 test fifties and 31 test hundreds at an average of 53.
An in-form Younus makes an enormous difference to Pakistan’s batting. Alongside Mishab he’s been their lynchpin for years. When pundits predicted that the tourists would be a handful for England this summer, much of that was dependent on Pakistan’s best batsman contributing the big runs he’s famous for. Today he finally delivered.
The other star of today’s show was Asad Shafiq who got a pair at Edgbaston. Today couldn’t have been more different as he hit a enterprising hundred full of crisp strokes. Together with Azhar Ali, the impressive Shafiq batted Pakistan into an very good position. It soon became obvious that England would need to fight for every wicket – something of a contrast from Pakistan’s second innings in Birmingham.
The problem for England is that the pitch flattened out very nicely for the batsmen today. It certainly looked easier than yesterday when its green tinge resembled the diving pool in Rio. I wonder if Cook regretted his decision to bat first?
Although our bowlers toiled admirably throughout the day – once again Steve Finn charged in something like the Finn of old – England find themselves in a bit of a predicament. At 340-6 Pakistan are already 12 runs ahead. With Younus and Sarfraz still at the crease, the lead might approach triple figures by lunch.
On the other hand, England know that one wicket might well bring four. We’ve seen on many occasions than Pakistan’s tail is about as useful as a flat tyre. Tomorrow should be very interesting indeed. And it’s a good thing too because I have a ticket!