The target was just 45 runs. Get that and, even in their annus horribilis, Pakistan would walk away unbeaten in the desert.
What they were facing were the number one ranked South African team, by far the best away side of their generation. Or rather they were facing a typical response to a Pakistani fourth innings chase.
The two ‘old men’ arrived at the pitch in quick succession. Pakistan were three down for just seven runs and, in the days before Sarfraz Ahmed, they were just two wickets away from the tail.
A few days later Pakistan would lose their last seven wickets for 39 runs to miss out on a chance to win the series.
Thus Misbah-ul-Haq was justified when he turned to Younis Khan and said, “We’ll have to chase this down, because if we don’t no one else will.” Forty minutes later Pakistan had their first win against South Africa in seven Tests.
That was the duo in a nutshell – it didn’t matter how easy or hard the task, they had to do it, because no one else would.
Until Azhar and Asad took up the mantle, and even during the time they did, it was those two who did the majority of the heavy lifting .
Thus much will be made of their absence – Misbah’s captaincy, particularly of the bowlers will be missed, as will his consistency with the bat.
The hole that Younis leaves behind is equally, if not more, irreplaceable. Not just that he is the greatest run scorer Pakistan has ever had, but everything else that he brought to the team: the safest pair of hands in the slips, the man to call on in any crisis, the best batsman with the tail since Inzamam, and the greatest deputy since Javed.
No Pakistani pair have scored more runs together than them two. Perhaps none have done it more often with their backs against the wall too pic.twitter.com/V2oSxUsD5l— Hassan Cheema (@mediagag) April 8, 2017
Younis was the vice captain for the majority of Inzamam’s tenure, and despite not having the title, he was also the chief of Misbah’s staff.
Those two captains account for more than a quarter of Pakistan’s Test wins in their 65 year Test history, and in times of crisis – in the field or with the bat – it was Younis that they called upon.
Thus to restrict Younis to just his bare numbers – as both his fans and detractors will do in trying to compare him to greats from days past – would be folly.
When former Pakistan players call him the most selfless cricketer they’ve played with, they have evidence to back that up. After all how many other captains would become the pillars of a side led by men who had participated in a mutiny against him?
Yet all of this is secondary to his greatest attribute – which is neither his batting, nor his catching.
In a country where the development of young players is the duty of senior players in the national team rather than the board or the domestic system, Younis’ greatest achievement might be what he got out of others.
In the land of Javed, Imran and Inzamam, Younis might arguably stand the tallest – for he was the great facilitator.
Think of every young batsman that has performed for Pakistan in the past decade: Fawad Alam made his debut hundred batting with Younis; the innings that turned Asad Shafiq’s career around – a century in Cape Town – all he did was match Younis; Azhar Ali, once the holder of a Misbah-esque record of one ton in fourteen 50+ scores, broke that streak and took the leap with 150 batting with Younis; Shan Masood pretty much won a game for Pakistan batting with him; and two of Ahmed Shehzad’s three Test tons came in innings where the great man also brought up a century.
To understand the successes of Pakistan batting over the past decade all you have to do is look at Younis Khan. To understand its failures (see: Akmal, Umar), all you have to look for is Younis’ absence.
Even his mentoring pales in comparison to what he did when he was in a duet with someone of his own level.
Of the four highest scoring career partnerships in Pakistan’s history, three have Younis as the dominant half: with Azhar Ali, Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah.
Among great all time partnerships (at least 2500 runs) only England’s Hobbs-Sutcliffe and Australia’s Langer-Ponting had a higher average than what Khan had as part of the “YoYo” duo (with Yousuf, an astonishing 78.42.
His partnership with Misbah meanwhile, which went past the YoYo duos overall runs last year, has its own legacy.
Only four duos ever – Dravid-Tendulkar, Mahela-Sanga, Greenidge-Haynes and Hayden-Ponting – have more than the 15 century stands of Misbah and Younis.
None of those four duos, for all their greater reputations, did it as consistently as the two old men.
Younis and Misbah’s ratio of a century stand every 3.47 times they joined each other at the crease, is only surpassed by legends Hobbs-Sutcliffe and Langer-Ponting.