Yuvi's all-round show

Well done mate...Yusuf Pathan greets Yuvraj Singh after the victory.-Pics.K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

The Indian star, in a commanding performance, bagged five wickets and scored an unbeaten 50 (75b, 3x4) as Ireland temporarily shed its giant-killer image. K. C. Vijaya Kumar reports.

In the lead up to the World Cup, Yuvraj Singh had bared his soul and admitted to negative thoughts over the past year. Injury-woes, low returns with the bat and an exit from the Test squad had made him think in terms of ‘quitting' his first-love. Thankfully Yuvraj stepped aside from that abyss and has worked his way to reclaiming his pivotal role in Indian ODI cricket.

After scores of 8, 12, 16, 53, 2, 42 not out, 20, 16 not out, 42 and 58 in his last 10 innings ahead of the World Cup, Yuvraj had hinted at a welcome return to form but was often reduced to a being a peddler of cameos. The World Cup has changed all that and none epitomised this more than his match-winning performance against Ireland in a key Group B match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on another Sunday.

The back-story over the past few days in Bangalore was all about cricketing scripts being turned upside down. England held India to a tie and then slumped to a shock-defeat against Ireland. The buzz around Ireland had suddenly acquired an ominous air and India with its past memory of a banana-peel match against Bangladesh in 2007, was understandably wary. “I never said that there are any weak teams in the World Cup,” said M. S. Dhoni on the eve of the match.

Yuvraj ensured that there were no slip-ups and in a commanding performance, bagged five wickets and scored an unbeaten 50 (75b, 3x4) and William Porterfield's men temporarily shed their giant-killer image. India won the toss and keeping in mind the recent matches in Bangalore, Dhoni opted to chase. Zaheer Khan did the Indian captain a favour by prising out a wicket each in his first two overs. “When you lose two wickets so early it is a difficult scenario for all teams,” conceded William Porterfield. The Irish skipper then did the major part of the repair work with a 75 (104b, 6x4, 1x6) and strung a 113-run third-wicket partnership with Niall O'Brien (46).

Yuvraj Singh is delighted after getting a five-for.-

The evening and night, however, was destined to be owned by Yuvraj and he stepped in with his loopy left-arm spin to ambush Ireland. Pads were ruffled, edges were brushed and Ireland capitulated to 207 in 47.5 overs. Yuvraj also dismissed the dangerous Kevin O'Brien. “I am a part-time bowler and just because I got five wickets it does not mean that I have overshadowed Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla,” Yuvraj said defensively.

The Indian chase ran on the expected lines of the nervous stutter while pursuing meagre targets. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir popped up tame catches off Trent Johnston, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli promised much but failed to prosper and it was again left to the old-combine of Yuvraj and Dhoni to inch towards the target. Yuvraj was not at his fluent best on a turgid wicket that aided turn but he stayed gritty and normal service was resumed when he plonked his front feet with that inevitable touch and swung two fours in the arc between long-on and mid-wicket.

The workmanlike innings with its odd flourish was a pointer to Yuvraj's fierce desire to secure an Indian triumph. “I may have not had a 100 per cent strike-rate but I am happy that I finished the match and helped India win,” Yuvraj said. Coming as it did after the earlier half-century against England, the southpaw has slowly but surely winged his way back to his days of dominance. After left-arm spinner George Dockrell scalped Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, who had blitzed a hundred at the same venue against New Zealand a few months back, merrily carted the bowlers and even the last remnants of pressure was comprehensively torn asunder. “My responsibility to the team is to score runs and help win matches. Whether I got five wickets or no wickets I still had to step in and score runs,” Yuvraj said after India won in 46 overs and with five wickets to spare.

Ireland though can take heart from the manner it battled hard and its fielding was top-class. Surely the minnow has started showing fangs.

Ireland captain William Porterfield held the innings together with a well-compiled 75.-

“They have the ability to put leading teams under pressure,” conceded Yuvraj on a day that charted another chapter in his roller-coaster career.

THE SCORES

Ireland 207 in 47.5 overs (W. Porterfield 75, Niall O'Brien 46, Yuvraj Singh five for 31, Zaheer Khan three for 30) lost to India 210 for five in 46 overs (Yuvraj 50 not out, S. Tendulkar 38, V. Kohli 34, M. Dhoni 34, Yusuf Pathan 30 not out).