The felicity of stroke making that once described Yuraj Singh’s persona bloomed once again in the presence of a motley gathering in Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium here, as India cantered to a five-wicket win against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup T20 league match.
The 34-year-old left-hander pounced on the opportunity presented by a faltering top order and produced the trademark flourish that took the sting away from the Sri Lankan bowling attack and gave India its third successive win of the tournament and a place in the final.
Scoring a masterful 35 off 18 deliveries, Yuvraj’s run riot provided the fulcrum tilting the match in India's favour. At one point, India looked uncertain losing three wickets for 70 runs while chasing a target of 139. Yuvraj's belligerence, that contained three giant sixes and as many boundaries, provided the impetus in the Indian innings. His 51-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Virat Kohli consolidated India's grip of the match. Kohli’s unbeaten 56 (47b, 7x4) somewhat paled out in comparison to Yuvraj’s performance though it was the former who ferried India across the winning mark and was later adjudged the man-of-the-match.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma could not offer much and were back in the dugout by the fourth over with only 16 runs on board. Suresh Raina (25) was a shade better and took the Indian fight ahead before perishing to a mistimed shot that ended in the hands of Sri Lankan fielder Nuwan Kulasekera in deep mid-off. Yuvraj joined Kohli hereafter to aid India to its eighth win in nine T20I matches over the last two months.
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Sri Lanka recovered from an early collapse triggered by some effective pace bowling by the Indians to score 138 for nine in the first innings. The pace battery of Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah continued to bowl by the script justifying the faith of captain M.S. Dhoni, who chose to field on winning the toss. Functioning like a well-oiled machine Nehra recreated his deadly spell in partnership with the young Jasprit Bumrah as the two effectively smothered the opposition batting line-up.
Unable to tackle the Indian pace attack, Sri Lankan Chandimal perished to Nehra’s fantastic line as India got the first beak in the third over and extended its iron clasp picking up regular wickets in the process. Bumrah picked up Shehan Jayasurya next before Hardik Pandya removed Tillakaratne Dilshan (18) in his first delivery leaving Sri Lanka in deeper trouble at 31 for three.
The fall of wickets continued in the Sri Lankan camp as stand-in skipper Angelo Mathews (18) made the mistake of going defensive and playing himself on after hitting Pandya for two successive boundaries (57 for four). At this point Chamara Kapugedera (30) and Milinda Siriwardana (22) put on a 43-run partnership for the fifth wicket to salvage the situation for Sri Lanka, hitting a few boundaries but Sri Lanka’s hopes of big score perished after Siriwardana was picked up by R. Ashwin. Thisara Perera (17) and Nuwan Kulasekara (13) played some good shots in the end to get Sri Lanka to a fighting total.