Comeback king Yuvraj guides India to victory

Only T20: India beat Australia by six wickets.

A terrific return to the team: Yuvraj Singh

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RAJKOT:
On a day eclipsed by the announcement of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement date, an obliteration of no less severity was carried out by Yuvraj Singh at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium. The southpaw smashed a 35-ball 77, including five sixes and eight fours, in his comeback match for India, as the hosts chased down Australia’s impressive 201 in a thrilling last-over finish to the solitary Twenty20 game.

Amid the constant threat of a downpour, all that rained on the ground were monster hits, first by Aaron Finch (89, 52b) and then, just when it appeared that the required rate had spiraled beyond redress, by Yuvraj. It looked all over for India when Virat Kohli (29) was the fourth top-order batsman out, with the score on exactly 100 in the 12th over, the home side having already lost the dangerous Rohit Sharma (8), Shikhar Dhawan (32) and Suresh Raina (19). 

Yuvraj had other ideas. He got going with a flick off Nathan Coulter-Nile and deftly guided Clint McKay to the third-man fence. With the asking rate still in rapid escalation, drastic action was the need of the hour. And Yuvraj readily obliged, taking 18 from McKay’s 14th over - including a flicked six that Shane Watson almost caught at long-on - and 20 from the usually tight James Faulkner’s 17th  of the innings.

Yuvraj raced to his fifty in just 25 balls and India were left with 29 to win from the last three. With the left-hander in such form, that turned out to be a formality, and victory was realised with two deliveries to spare, for once skipper Dhoni relegated to a secondary role with an unbeaten 21-ball 24. The pair had added an unbroken 102 in just 8.3 overs. Also deserving of an honourable mention are R Vinay Kumar (4-0-26-3) and Ravindra Jadeja (4-0-23-1) who imposed some decorum when Australia were tearing away in their first innings.

Gruesome


The visitors were gruesome from the get-go after Dhoni sent them in. Finch and debutant Nic Maddinson went after the seaming Kumars, forcing the Indian captain to call in his trump card R. Ashwin as early as in the third over of the innings. The off-spinner failed miserably, conceding 17 as Finch made room to punish him repeatedly through cover.

Ishant Sharma’s lively pace was greeted by a ferocious pulled six by Maddinson. The left-handed debutant looked untouchable in his 15-ball 34, before heaving across the line and losing his off-stump to Bhuvneshwar.

Finch continued to pound Ishant as Australia reached 74/1 at the end of the mandatory Powerplay. A double jolt was then effected by Vinay Kumar to send back Shane Watson and skipper Bailey, for a three-ball duck, in the eighth over.

If that were possible, the wickets worsened India’s situation.

Million dollar man


For in came Glenn Maxwell. The million-dollar man took 24 from an Ashwin over, sending him out of the attack with figures of 2-0-41-0, leading Dhoni to ring in another change. Virat Kohli revved into action with the ball, but the result was the same as Maxwell’s acceleration attained logic-defying proportions, the innings 100 coming up in the 10th over.

Finch, meanwhile, had reeled in a lightning half-century off just 29 balls, and once Ravindra Jadeja, the pick of the bowlers, had Maxwell caught by Ishant within inches of the long-on boundary, the onus of a big total rested firmly with Finch.

Vinay Kumar’s stunning reflex catch off his own full-toss claimed Finch in the 17th over. And the last four overs yielded just 29 as India somewhat arrested the flow of runs. Faulkner’s last-ball six assured a score in excess of 200, a stiff target rendered powerless thanks to the comeback man.

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