Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf might have had a pleasant suspicion that 2006 could be a momentous year during an extraordinary couple of days in Lahore in January. The two had already established themselves as a fearsome combination in Pakistan's formidable middle order but their partnership in the opening Test against India took them to another level.
Admittedly, the pitch at the Gaddafi Stadium was a featherbed. None the less, their achievement in putting on 319 runs was monumental, particularly since the entire piece of work spanned only 65 overs as Pakistan amassed 679 for 7 in fewer than five sessions.
"I enjoy batting with Yousuf," Younis said at the end of the first day in Lahore. "He is very fit. We are able to rotate the strike well and take lots of singles. The opposition often doesn't realise how fast we are scoring."
England must have had a pretty good idea as their bowlers delivered ball after weary ball in a test of endurance that lasted a strength-sapping five and a half hours here yesterday. True to the pattern that Younis had described, he and his partner had contributed some 148 runs to their phenomenal alliance in singles, twos and threes. "That is the secret," he repeated yesterday. "We talk a lot at the crease and we are always looking for the quick singles."
The two are contrasting players. Younis is a sublime stroke-maker with a tendency to be adventurous, sometimes at a cost to himself or a team-mate. Yousuf, on the other hand, while undeniably stylish, bats with a greater air of permanence.
In combination, they create a chemistry that has now elevated them to the company of the finest partnerships cricket has known. Yesterday's 363 in the third Test raised their average in 31 innings together to 85.53. Among pairs who have amassed more than 2,500 runs together - a figure these two went past yesterday - only Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, at 87.86 from 39 innings, have a higher average.
For Younis and Yousuf, 2006 has been a year unsurpassed, adding 1,427 runs to more than double their aggregate, including stands of 142 and 242 in the second Test against India in Faisalabad and 158 in the third Test in Karachi, setting the stage for Pakistan to clinch the series.
"Sometimes you have to hold you hands up and accept that your opponents played very well and they were fantastic," England's Paul Collingwood said, admitting that his maiden wicket had come as a relief after bowling 63 overs in Test cricket without having any success. "I was more pleased than I thought I would be," he said. "Everybody hugged me. I think it was relief all round. The strike rate needs to come down a touch, though.
"I had a catch dropped off me during the Ashes [by Marcus Trescothick at first slip] off Justin Langer - he said I beat him with pace - and I had a very close lbw decision turned down against [Virender] Sehwag. He hit me for six next ball."
Of Inzamam-ul-Haq's freakish dismissal, Collingwood insisted that "seeing the back of a very good player" was more important than the comedy value of watching the Pakistan captain almost roll over his stumps, although Younis was unable to suppress a grin. "I shouldn't laugh, really," he said. "He is the captain, after all."
Highest partnerships v England
451 WH Ponsford & DG Bradman (Aus) The Oval 1938
405 SG Barnes & DG Bradman (Aus) Sydney 1946-47
399 GS Sobers & FMM Worrell (WI) Bridgetown 1959-60
388 WH Ponsford & DG Bradman (Aus) Leeds 1934
363 Mohammad Yousuf & Younis Khan (Pak) Leeds 2006
Shot of the day
* YOUNIS KHAN Where do you start? Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan played so many. Best? Younis' straight-batted pull off Sajid Mahmood which sailed over midwicket for four. Not quite in the Kevin Pietersen class, but not far off.
Ball of the day
* STEPHEN HARMISON Harmison did not have a good day but his pace and bounce still caused occasional problems. One instance came with the second new ball when Mohammad Yousuf gloved a throat ball to the slips. Sadly it rolled away for four runs.
Moment of the day
* INZAMAM-UL-HAQ Inzamam is not known for his gracefulness, and his dismissal was a classic. Attempting to sweep Monty Panesar he overbalanced and fell towards the stumps. He tried to leap over them - but he couldn't quite get his leg over.Reuse content