|Yuvraj Singh en route to his unbeaten 77,
in Rajkot, on Thursday. (PTI)
Rajkot: If there was anything called a ‘fairytale comeback’, Yuvraj Singh had one on Thursday. In fact, had it not been for Sachin Tendulkar announcing his decision to retire after his 200th Test, Yuvraj would surely have been one of the biggest headline-makers of the day.
Precisely, it was Yuvraj’s second comeback in his post-cancer days. Donning Team India colours after eight months, the dasher hit an awesome 77 not out (off just 35 balls) to lead India to a fine six-wicket win, with two balls to spare, in the one-off T20 International against Australia, here, at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium.
For sure, the pitch was a batting paradise and India’s chase was helped further by some sub-standard stuff dished out by the rival bowlers. That said, chasing an imposing target of 202 under any conditions is no easy job.
With this victory, India are now the only team to have chased down a total in excess of 200 twice in the T20 format. And this was made possible by Yuvraj, who proved he still belongs among the best.
No wonder this was the perfect stage for the fighter in Yuvraj, who prevailed over the deadliest of odds, to announce his comeback in such a magnificent style.
Not getting even one over to bowl, Yuvraj ensured he delivered with the bat. His contribution came at a stage when India were struggling at 100 for four in the 12th over.
The top four — Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli — were all back to the hut and India needed another 102 runs off just 53 balls.
But just as Yuvraj struck two consecutive sixes off Clint Mckay in the 14th over, which produced 18 runs, the game started tilting in India’s favour.
From thereon, there was no stopping Yuvraj. He started dealing in boundaries and sixes, with the Australians looking worse than clueless.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s (24 not out) calming influence at the other end ensured Yuvraj’s super show remained the talking point of the game.
Earlier, Australia rode Aaron Finch’s 89 to post 201 for seven. Put into bat, Australia raced off to 56 for no loss in the fifth over. Making his debut, young Nic Maddinson (34) was extremely impressive with shots all around the park.
Dhoni introduced spin as early as the third over in the form of Ravichandran Ashwin. Finch and Maddinson took 17 runs off the off-spinner to hit him out of the attack.
Outscoring the more experienced and seasoned Finch, Maddinson looked all set for a well deserved half-century before playing across the line and losing his off-stump to Bhuvneshwar Kumar (three for 35).
The dismissal, though, didn’t affect Australia’s rhythm as Finch continued with his positive approach.
However, Vinay Kumar (three for 26) dented Australia’s progress with a double strike in the eighth over, removing Shane Watson and Aussie skipper George Bailey in a space of just two balls.
Just as India looked to choke Australia down, Glenn Maxwell took charge and maintained the tempo, ensuring the fabulous start didn’t go for a waste.
Maxwell smashed three sixes in the 10th over that cost India 24… And the man at the receiving end was none other than Ashwin, who wasn’t given the ball thereafter.
Maxwell’s cameo ended when Ishant Sharma took a fine catch at deep long-on, off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja. Finch though continued, holding the innings together.
However, Bhuvneshwar and Vinay Kumar returned to apply the brakes on Australia’s progress. The duo mixed it up with full length and slower balls as the visitors, after Finch’s dismissal, managed to hit just two fours and a six in the last four overs of their innings.