The Yuvraj Singh on show before Sunday’s game versus Australia seemed an imposter. He walked with a swagger. However, when a cricket ball came towards him, Yuvraj was tentative. He had spilled two catches, was bowled off a full ball against Pakistan, and laboured to 10 off 19 against the West Indies. He was not finishing off games nor was he able to score freely at the start of an innings. After not playing international cricket for three months, he seemed a touch slower on the field.
In the first 13 deliveries Yuvraj played on Sunday, he showed no signs of stepping out of the shadow of doubt that he has been playing under. He was tentative in his stroke-play, was almost run-out when batting with Ajinkya Rahane and didn’t hit a boundary.
The fluency and timing that is associated with Yuvraj was missing till he crashed one through the covers off Doug Bollinger. The stroke looked good but was it a one-off? In the next ball he was nearly run out again as Raina send him back. His innings could have ended in a comedy of errors.
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However, Yuvraj could take his time in assessing the conditions. Rohit Sharma was dismissed early and Virat Kohli, India’s best batsmen in the tournament, was back in the dug-out after scoring 23 off 22. When Yuvraj began his innings another 82 balls remained. Yuvraj has the ability to switch gears in an instant so a slow start is not a reason for alarm. Moreover, the aim would have been to spend as much time in the middle given that this was a dead rubber for India who had already made the semifinals while Australia were out of contention. The opportunity to bat with freedom knowing that this wasn’t a must-win game was an ideal situation for Yuvraj, who was looking to play himself into some kind of form.
Yuvraj launched into attack mode against young leg-spinner James Muirhead. The successive sixes in the 14th over were hit to his favourite areas — deep mid-wicket and long on. Yuvraj didn’t hold back against the pace bowlers too. He then flicked fast bowler Mitchell Starc to the mid-wicket fence before bringing out his best shot of the day. It was executed in the last ball of the same Starc over. The delivery from the left-arm pacer was full but Yuvraj had time to make room and send the ball over long-off.
The transformation, from being unsure at the start of the innings to hitting the ball powerfully, was complete when Yuvraj scored 14 runs off the next over from Shane Watson. The six, off a full toss, to the square leg boundary brought up a much-needed half century.
The Indian innings lost steam in the last two overs as MS Dhoni and Yuvraj were dismissed and only 12 runs were added to the total.
The target of 160 seemed a touch below par against a side full of hitters. However, the second half of the match was an anti-climax. The Australians had nothing to lose but they lost their heads as the Indian bowling unit collectively excelled once again.
Ashwin picked up four wickets for just 11 runs in 3.2 overs to pick up his second Man of the Match award of the tournament. Four wins in four matches make India the clear favourites in this tournament. Yuvraj Singh’s timely return to form, only makes the side even more formidable.