Ahmedabad: Take a bow, Yuvraj Singh! Well done, Ashok Dinda.
Prior to Friday’s match, in eight T20 matches, Yuvraj had scored only 152 runs.
But, on Friday, at the Sardar Patel Stadium, in Motera, it was vintage Yuvraj… The 36-ball 72 not only paved the way for India’s thrilling 11-run win over Pakistan, it also enabled the hosts to square the two-match T20 series.
However, his efforts could have gone in vain had not been for Ashok Dinda’s fiery second spell.
Led by the inspirational skipper Mohammed Hafeez, Pakistan were looking on course of chasing down the 193-run target.
Hafeez, partnered by Umar Akmal, tried to build on the foundation that their openers had laid. Nasir Jamshed (41, 32b, 4x4 1x6) and Ahmed Shehzad (31, 29b, 3x4, 1x6) shared a 74-run first wicket partnership.
He shared a stand of 62 runs with Akmal (24) before Dinda scalped the latter’s wicket in the 17th over with a well-disguised slower ball. In the process, he got the essential breakthrough.
But it was the penultimate over of the Pakistan innings, which tilted the scales in favour of the hosts.
Needing 26 off last two overs, the pressure was on Dinda, especially after he conceded a last-over six that sealed victory for England in their T20 win over India last week ago.
Not only did Dinda hold his nerves, but also took the crucial wickets of Hafeez and Kamran Akmal. In two overs, he gave away only 12 runs and scalped three wickets.
Dinda’s performance holds more significance because the conditions in Ahmedabad were not in favour of the seamers. But the Bengal lad mixed his deliveries and used his variations brilliantly.
Now, let’s talk about Yuvraj’s innings. He has so many shots in his repertoire that he can pierce the field easily than most of his contemporaries. It also allows him to dominate. Friday was such a day where he dominated with the bat. He hit four boundaries and as many as seven sixes.
He was supported well by Mahendra Singh Dhoni (33, 23b, 4x4). The duo was involved in a fourth wicket-partnership of 97 runs. They provided a rich day’s batting entertainment for the full house with their marriage of aggression and invention.
Yuvraj was silken smoothness, timing the ball and driving the ball with elan. It was a fearless innings, the runs scored both robustly and in fine style. He slog swept Saeed Ajmal for a six early in his knock and when he returned in the penultimate over of the Indian innings, he was taken to the cleaners.
Yuvraj hit him for three consecutive sixes, much to the delight of the 45-000-odd crowd. And if you had thought that it all power-hitting by the left-handed batsman, you are mistaken. The way in which Yuvraj opened his bat to delicately stroke Ajmal for a boundary past short third man was a treat to watch.
He was equally unrelenting and disdainful against the pacers, even after a Mohammed Irfan toe-crusher had him writhing in pain. The two consecutive sixes — the first of which brought up his half-century — off a Sohail Tanvir over should give one an idea about his control in the middle.
Dhoni, on the other hand, was happy to allow Yuvraj take the centre stage. But whenever he got the strike, he made his intentions clear with lusty blows.The Indian innings was given a promising start by the openers Gautam Gambhir (21, 11b, 4x4) and Ajinkya Rahane (28, 26b, 4x4). The partnership yielded 44 runs off 29 balls.
The duo started in contrasting fashion. Rahane’s innings was based more on timing and deft placements while his partner looked edgy at the start and could never really take off.
With the score on 53 for two, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh steadied the innings by stitching together a partnership of 35 runs before the former was run out. It seemed that Kohli was taking a jog in the park, showing no effort to complete the run.