Pakistan middle-order batsman Younis Khan and the new captain Misbah-ul-Haq had an auspicious return to Test cricket, putting on a valient and unbroken 186-run stand for the fourth wicket, to draw the first Test against South Africa in the UAE. The duo combined brilliantly to defy the Proteas for 57 overs in their second innings and last out the final day of the Test match when almost certain defeat loomed over Pakistan.
Deprived of Younis's services since July last year, the Pakistan batting order struggled against Australia and England, so it was a timely comeback for him. Meanwhile, Misbah who hasn't played for his side since the Sydney disaster, showed his mettle and demonstrated the stuff of true grit at Dubai, after Pakistan had their backs to the wall thanks to a 132-run deficit from the first innings.
"This feels like a win. The team put in a wonderful effort under pressure," said Miabah after the match. "I was under quite a bit of pressure before this Test but I think my performance today will make it easier for me."
In the first innings, Pakistan collapsed from 176 or 2 to 248 all out and it was in that context that Misbah and Younis' invaluable contribution attains much significance. The two themselves were able to reverse the trend of the match that was undoubtedly, up to that point, going South Africa's way. Misbah singled out praise on his partner for his gritty century. "On the second day the bowlers brought us back into the game the plan today was to be positive and not just try to stick it out. Younis' knock today was a special one, " observed Misbah.
The partnership was not bereft of drama and slices of good fortune for both batsmen, though. Younis, who had started off cautiously, grew in confidence and his strokeplay attained an expansiveness that exuded professionalism. But he was dropped twice, once on 16 by Mark Bouncher and again on 70 by Jacque Kallis. Meanwhile, Misbah got a reprieve when Hashim Amla put down a catch at short leg just prior to lunch.
"Missed chances are always costly but nobody does it on purpose", said South African captain Graeme Smith, in reaction. "It was unusual for those guys to miss those chances because they have been stalwarts of the team for a long time. So obviously they are disappointed with that. But we've played good positive cricket throughout the game and we'll take that into Abu Dhabi."
Of course, Misbah also acknowledge that the more-or-less placid pitch played its part towards Paksitan's objective."There wasn't any pressure on us because the wicket here is different to those in the subcontinent," he said. "It didn't have the kind of uneven bounce that causes the ball to bounce up off the pads. On this wicket it was possible to bat positively and that's what I was trying to do. I was trying to hit the bad balls for boundaries."