Kohli: Yuvraj's innings made the difference

Captain Virat Kohli was all praise for man of the match Yuvraj Singh, as India beat Pakistan by 124 runs on Sunday.

Virat Kohli later said he had felt like a club cricketer, watching the man at the other end belt the ball around effortlessly while he was plodding along. Pakistan's fielders possibly felt the same way, a shock to the system after having kept India relatively quiet for 35 overs. On days like these, Yuvraj Singh has no equal, no rival. There is no matching his shots or his fluid bat-swing or indeed how painless he makes it all look. Yuvraj was man of the match at Edgbaston on Sunday, as India beat Pakistan by 124 runs (DLS method); he made only 53, but it was some half-century.

“The way he batted was the way only he can strike the ball,” Kohli said, “hitting low full tosses for fours and sixes, and even digging out yorkers for fours. I think that really deflated the opposition and that gave me a bit of time to settle in from the other end. Yuvi just took all the pressure off me. When he got out, I took over. But his innings was the difference in the game.”

Yuvraj had missed India's warm-up games ahead of the Champions Trophy with a virus, but there was no sign of rust here. Only Shadab Khan had him in trouble with a wrong 'un, when to Pakistan's horror Hasan Ali grassed a simple chance at long-off. Hasan Ali bowled the very next over, the game's 43rd, and was quickly shown the magnitude of his error. Yuvraj punched an attempted yorker straight past the bowler, and two balls later – with the crowd singing his name –  swung a short delivery over square leg in one smooth motion. “Obviously, if you drop players like Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli,” Azhar Ali mused later, “they're going to make you pay.”

There were questions when Yuvraj was called up for the England series in January – a return to one-day international cricket after three years. He made a brilliant 150 in Cuttack, when India was 25 for three, and demonstrated that it was far too early to write him off. Some of those questions are not without merit – the next World Cup is still two years away and if India is building a team for the future, it might look beyond the old guard; plus his fielding is not what it once was (it is why he stands at third man). But how can there be any criticism when Yuvraj, 35 or not, bats like this and wins matches for India?

“He's done it in India. And now he's continuing it in England,” said Kohli. “If he plays like that, the team is always in a good space because you can really rely on him to come in and just play a match-changing innings. And he'll end up doing it three out of five times. That's why we back him at that spot. The way Yuvi has come back and scored in the last series and now taking the initiative in this game, it's been beautiful to see.”

It is early days yet in the Champions Trophy but India can take comfort from its work in Birmingham. After the presentation ceremony, Yuvraj spoke of how India's fans had made the day special, likening the atmosphere to that at a World Cup final. He made it just as special for them.

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