Younis Khan struck a serene hundred on the opening day of Pakistan's first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, hauling the visitors away from disaster and into a strong position by stumps.
After arriving at the crease at 19-2 following the wickets of Ahmed Shehzad and Khurram Manzoor, Younis then watched Azhar Ali fall just prior to the lunch interval to leave Pakistan on the precipice at 56-3.
Thereafter, however, the 36-year-old controlled the day's play, striking 11 fours and a six to cruise to an unbeaten 133, enjoying assistance from Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq as the tourists reached 261-4 when bad light stopped play in the dying minutes of the afternoon.
Given the volatility of Pakistan's batting lineup—a phrase so regularly used it's become a cliche in cricket's vernacular—Younis' calmly defiant performance was sublime.
And it wasn't the first time we've seen such a display. Interestingly, however, the veteran right-hander is rarely mentioned when discussing the finest Test players of his era.
Perhaps due to his team's inconsistency or the ongoing absence of international cricket in his homeland or the turmoil that engulfed his captaincy or the ever-growing dominance (financially and politically) of England, Australia and India that has rendered Pakistan something of a second-tier cricketing nation, Younis' outstanding record has been overlooked, lost in the crowd.
At the very least, the prolific Pakistani is comfortably among the finest players ever to represent his nation at Test level.
In fact, with 7,532 runs, only Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq now sit ahead of him on the all-time run-scoring charts in the five-day game for Pakistan. By passing 131 on Wednesday, the right-hander moved ahead of former teammate Mohammad Yousuf.
|Leading Test Run-Scorers for Pakistan|
Of course, Younis has never been as aesthetically pleasing as contemporaries such as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis or Ricky Ponting.
But critiquing the appearance of the veteran's batting misses the point: He's been remarkably reliable despite his idiosyncratic style, a pillar of middle-order strength which Pakistan has built around for more than a decade.
Indeed, Younis has struck centuries in every country of the cricketing world bar Australia. Having thrived at home, in India, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, the former captain has quickly come to terms with Pakistan's adopted home in the UAE, excelling on the neutral turf in the twilight of his career as well.
|Younis Khan's Test Batting Record by Country|
|in New Zealand||5||457||65.28||149*||1|
|in South Africa||8||489||32.60||111||1|
|in Sri Lanka||13||827||45.94||133*||2|
|in West Indies||5||211||23.44||106||1|
The hallmark of an elite international batsman has always been the ability to score all around the globe, in varying conditions and against contrasting attacks.
Despite being consistently overlooked when discussing the game's finest, Younis has done exactly that.
|Younis Khan's Test Record at Home, Neutral and Away Venues|
Unquestionably, the characteristic that has defined him more than any other has been his resilience when faced with adversity.
Not one to simply hammer opposing bowlers on lifeless, batsmen-friendly tracks, the Pakistani has made a habit of accumulating runs in the crunch.
Indeed, Pakistan have lost just five of the 24 Tests in which Younis has reached three figures.
Most telling, of course, is the 36-year-old's glittering record in fourth innings.
Tied with Sunil Gavaskar, Ricky Ponting, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Graeme Smith for the most hundreds in the final innings of a Test (4), Younis owns one of the game's finest ever records in the conditions that are typically most difficult for batsmen.
|Highest Test Averages in 4th Innings with 1000+ Runs|
On Wednesday, he once again displayed his propensity to thrive where others perish, rescuing Pakistan on yet another occasion.
And given the strength of his Test record, perhaps Younis' name can be included when mentioning the roll-call of the game's finest batsmen.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.
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