Yuvraj’s swagger is back

Taking control…Yuvraj Singh led India’s charge with an unbeaten 77 at a staggering strike rate of 220.-PTI

Not even the exacting run-rate of close to 11 could stop the flamboyant left-hander from riding roughshod over the Aussie bowling attack, writes G. Viswanath.

Yuvraj Singh was the bellwether, as India marched to victory in style in the one-off T20 International, which opened the short home series against Australia.

The stage was set for Yuvraj to take on the lead role after the earlier batsmen — Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli — showed only a fleeting glimpse of putting the Australian attack to the sword. Nothing, not even the exacting run-rate of close to 11, could stop the flamboyant left-hander from riding roughshod over the Aussie bowling attack, which banked heavy on seam.

This was the sort of inspiring storyline that some pundits had predicted for Yuvraj, who has now gained the reputation of providing the magic moments with the bat. The locals in and around Rajkot had taken almost all of the 30,000 or so seats at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium at Khanderi, some 12 kilometres from Rajkot, on the Jamnagar highway. Forced to be silent spectators in the first session, when the Australian openers went hammer and tongs at the Indian bowlers and again when India lost wickets at regular intervals, they became vociferous once Yuvraj took command. He made an unbeaten 77 at a staggering strike rate of 220.

The dramatic turnaround came after Kohli left the scene in the 12th over. Though Mahendra Singh Dhoni was willing to play the second fiddle, it was the Indian skipper who struck the winning shot in the end.

Yuvraj was the most deserving winner of the Man of the Match award, his second in succession. He had also been chosen for the special honour after scoring a match-winning 72 against Pakistan at Motera 10 months ago.

Having been given the opportunity by the national selectors, after he had taken pains to shed some weight, improved his fitness and scored runs in the series against West Indies ‘A’ and the Challenger Series, Yuvraj applied himself to the task to prove that he has lost none of his ability as a match-winner.

The pick of India's bowlers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Vinay Kumar (below) claimed three wickets each.-VIVEK BENDRE

He was not the only left-hander to catch the attention on the day. The Australian captain, George Bailey, had announced at the pre-match press conference that Nic Maddinson would definitely make his debut. If the curious-minded were keen to know what he was capable of, Maddinson did not waste time, as he displayed his talent right from the word go. His first shot, a firmly hit straight drive off Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the first over, mirrored the young left-hander’s confidence. He hit a shot over mid-on, stepped out to deal with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and then virtually executed a sweep shot off Ishant Sharma after swinging him for a six.

Maddinson may have given the impression of adhering to the dictum, “Live by the sword and die by the sword,” but here was a new face of Australian cricket trying to gain a few points with his bold stroke-play.

The rain threat had loomed large over the match but once the weather cleared, there was plenty of clean hitting from the heavy-looking Aaron Finch and Maddinson.

Finch (89: 52 balls, 14x4, 1x6) and Maddinson (34: 16 balls, 6x4, 1x6) laid a solid foundation on which Australia built a total of 201. Later, Glenn Maxwell (27: 13 balls) took a heavy toll of Ashwin, hitting him for four sixes.

VIVEK BENDRE

Seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Vinay Kumar and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja pegged away to restrict Australia to a little over 200 on a wicket tailor-made for batting.

After some poor out-cricket in the initial phase of the match, Ishant Sharma took a well-judged catch to send back the dangerous looking Maxwell and later Vinay Kumar held on to a full-blooded Finch swat-back during a crucial phase of the match. It was a splendid effort from the persevering seamer, who was rewarded with three wickets. Bhuvneshwar Kumar too claimed three wickets.

“It was a game of inches. Watson nearly catches him (Yuvraj) on the fence and that’s a different game. If we could have found a way to take a wicket that would have changed everything as well. It was disappointing to lose, but there were some real positives out of it. Finch was outstanding again and Maddinson right behind him was great to see. Maxy played beautifully,” said the Australian captain, Bailey.

THE SCORES

India vs. Australia T20 International, Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot, October 10, 2013. Result: India won by six wickets.

Australia 201 for seven in 20 overs (A. J. Finch 89, N. J. Maddinson 34, G. J. Maxwell 27, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3-35, Vinay Kumar 3-26) lost to India 202 for four in 19.4 overs (S. Dhawan 32, V. Kohli 29, Yuvraj Singh 77 n.o., M. S. Dhoni 24 n.o., C. J. McKay 2-50).