Honours even on opening day

SHARJAH, JAN. 31. The opening day's play in the first-ever Test match on Sharjah's neutral soil was combative, but never exhilarating. A pitch that was grey in appearance and turgid in performance ensured that neither runs nor wickets were easily obtained.

Almost every bit of ground that Pakistan lost was conceded through batsmen's errors or indiscretions. At the same time, West Indies earned its share of the day's honours by bowling with patience and discipline.

Pakistan will certainly not be cock-a-hoop with its score of 230 for five. But it should be consoled by the fact that it does not have to bat last on a pitch that is an unknown quantity.

The pillars of this moderate Pakistan total were a chanceless 53 by Younis Khan and an unbeaten 78 by Yousuf Youhana, although left-handed opener Taufiq Umer, who made 28, deserves credit for staying in almost all morning to help Younis lay the foundation.

Youhana, whose unfinished innings has lasted 205 minutes and 165 balls, is indeed proving a doughty foe for the West Indies, having scored a century in each of the last two Tests when the countries last met, in the Caribbean, in 1999-00.

Pakistan blooded a new opening batsman in Naved Latif, a 25-year-old right-hander. He lasted no more than six balls. Anxious, no doubt, to get off the mark, he played a wanton leg- side shot against Mervyn Dillon, and was leg before.

Umer and Younis Khan should have had no qualms about taking 25 overs to add 42 runs for the second wicket, because there was nobody in the stands to entertain. The partnership was broken five minutes before the interval by Carl Hooper. Attempting to cut him, the dour Umer, who had faced 82 balls, played on.

Hooper bowled his off-spin for most of the afternoon session. There was no turn in the pitch, but a strong crosswind aided him to drift the ball. He snared Younis Khan by having him play a fatal cut to slip. But before then, Dillon struck a very crucial blow by dismissing Inzamam-ul-Haq, who too edged a cut, for only ten.

Younis Khan, who scored his 53 off 129 balls, and Inzamam had made a very palpable effort to raise the scoring rate after lunch. But the uneven bounce made the cut a hazardous shot to play.

At 94 for four, the innings was in a parlous state when Youhana and Razzak came together to add 84 before Razzak, driving on the up at a widish out-swinger from Wavell Hinds was caught behind. Youhana had a narrow escape just before the close when an uppish drive compelled by a ball from Dillon that stopped dropped just short of mid-on.

The scores:

Pakistan 1st innings: Taufiq Umer b Hooper 24, Naved Latif lbw b Dillon 0, Younis Khan c Gayle b Hooper 53, Inzamam-ul-Haq c Jacobs b Dillon 10, Yousuf Youhana (batting) 78, Abdur Razzaq c Jacobs W. Hinds 34, Rashid Latif (batting) 27. Extras (lb-4): 4. Total (for 5 wkts) 230.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-45, 3-80, 4-94, 5-178.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 24-6-78-2, Collins 22-2-60-0, Cuffy 22-8-40-0, Hooper 17-4-31-2, R. Hinds 1- 0-5-0, W. Hinds 6-1-12-1.

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