Yuvraj Singh sets Durban on fire

Runs flowed in a torrent from Yuvraj Singh’s bat, with six sixes in an over to boot, at Durban. Nandita Sridhar captures the excitement.

India had to beat England to be in the reckoning for a semifinal berth. In six balls of unhesitant searing intent (there was just one mis-hit), Yuvraj Singh blurred every other match detail into insignificance.

This one dated back to two weeks. Dimitri Mascarenhas had made a mockery of Rahul Dravid’s decision to make Yuvraj bowl the last over of the England innings at the Oval, by smashing five sixes.

“After five sixes I had so many phone calls. So many people wouldn’t call me even when I got a hundred. There were around 100 to 150 calls, and people were making fun of me. I thought, God, this is not fair, you’ve got to give it back to me, and he gave it back to me,” said Yuvraj. He also hit the fastest 50 in any form of the game (12 balls).

The exchange of words with Andrew Flintoff might have pumped him up.

“It charged me up for sure, but it happens in games. Oppositions do have a word with each other, so it’s part of the game. Outside we’re good friends, but in the game we’re competitive. Of course, when you hear some words you get charged up, and you want to give it back with the bat. I wanted to give it back with the bat,” he said.

Stuart Broad looked like he’d been given a life-term for littering. The slightest error in line and length was punished with such intent, that there was little room to feel anything else. “We just smiled,” said Yuvraj, when asked if he had spoken to Broad after that.

Amid all the drama, India had set England a huge target, which the latter almost overhauled. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had given India a brilliant start, before Yuvraj gave it a dream finish.

The Indian bowling was subjected to some harsh treatment. Chasing a huge target, England carted the ball around. Sreesanth and R. P. Singh erred in length in their opening overs. R. P. Singh made up for it later on, while exploiting the conditions that aided swing bowling. Irfan Pathan was the pick of the bowlers, and both left-armers bowled much better towards the end.

Captain M. S. Dhoni reiterated that it was a team effort. “Yuvraj’s innings was amazing, but the rest of the team cannot be neglected for that. The bowlers did well. They went for runs only because the target was huge.”

The fielding had its comic moments. R. P. Singh at third man was readying himself for a simple catch, when he tripped and groped around for a few seconds before the ball reached the boundary. Even he could see the humour in that.

With the exception of the catching, it was a spirited performance from the Indians in the crucial match. A loss would have shut them out. In hindsight, Yuvraj’s innings might have been the difference. The left-hander did have a few words for Broad.

“I was the one who got hit for five sixes in the Oval game. It’s a horrible feeling. I’m not even a bowler, and Stuart is one of their main bowlers, so I feel sorry for him, because I had a horrible day (at Oval). But you have your good days and your bad days. Personally it’s a great feeling to hit six sixes off a main bowler.”