November 28, 2013 1:45:07 am
Twice in the 29th over of the second innings,the Indian dressing room stood as one and the packed Green Park stadium roared in unison to applaud a batsman reaching a landmark. The first was for Yuvraj Singh. A clipped single to midwicket off Sunil Narine had brought up a half century,only his second in ODIs this year. Yuvraj seemed to show relief more than anything in his acknowledgment of the applause. With his bat lifted by the blade,he seemed almost exhausted by the effort. Two balls later,an outside-edged boundary got the other batsman,Shikhar Dhawan,to three figures. Like a gymnast after nailing a near-perfect landing,a beaming Dhawan had his arms aloft as he reveled in the atmosphere. The pose has become a trademark of sorts,and with five ODI hundreds this year,Dhawan has been getting to do a lot of it recently.
Yuvraj would eventually make 55 and Dhawan his ODI highest of 119. Their knocks saw India easily chase down West Indiess 263 with five wickets and nearly four overs to spare and win the ODI series 2-1.
Dhawan didnt need another century to assert the fact that he has had a spectacular year. Yuvrajs fifty,however,if not affirmation that he still has plenty of cricket left in him,at least proves his ability to gut things out when they arent going his way. Averaging less than 20 over the last one year,his poor form has predominantly been shielded by the fact that Indias No. 1,2 and 3 have been enjoying an extended purple patch over the same period. In this span,he has looked dodgy against both sharp pace and quality spin.
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Indeed,once he came into the crease at 69 at the uncharacteristically early fall of Virat Kohlis wicket,he hopped uncomfortably and ducked unconvincingly as Ravi Rampaul bowled consecutive bouncers at him. On cue,in the next over,just the 10th of the innings,West Indies skipper Dwayne Bravo introduced off-spinner Sunil Narine. Narine would be given six overs on the trot in an effort to dislodge Yuvraj. Off that first spell Yuvraj faced 21 balls scoring 8. With the batsman unable to pick the ball that straightened,Yuvraj was clearly the lesser contestant in the battle,but just when Narine seemed on the brink of victory,ripping three big off breaks past the batsmans prodding edge,his skipper decided to save the last four overs for later. With Rampaul too running out of overs,Bravo decided to pull him out of the attack as well.
Yuvraj slowly got into the groove against the other bowlers. He seemed to find his touch pulling two fours when Darren Sammy tried to bounce him at 80 miles an hour. Lendl Simmons made things even easier,and by the time Narine and Rampaul returned for their second spells,Yuvraj was far more confident. The spinner was slog swept for four while Rampaul was flicked off the pads for another boundary. Dwayne Bravo was cut in style for another boundary. But just when Yuvraj started asserting himself,he fell for 55 off 74 balls giving Narine his first wicket. It had,however,come off the offies last over and the 129 run partnership between Yuvraj and Dhawan had taken India to 190/3. With just 74 runs needed in 20 overs,the game was in the bag for all purposes.
Man in form
While Yuvraj was scratchy and hanging in,Dhawan was all over the West Indies,ensuring there was little pressure on the other end. Jason Holder was sent out of the attack after being hit for five fours in his first two overs.
When the West Indies were looking for a few quiet overs after Narines long spell,Dhawan hit both change bowlers,Simmons and Verasammy Permaul,for consecutive fours,forcing Bravo to return to Rampaul and Narine. The reintroduction of the visitors two most successful bowlers of the day did nothing to stop Dhawan. Rampaul was crashed through the covers twice in an over to take Dhawan to 92. Dhawan did enjoy a few bits of luck. On 51,a hard cut edge flew past Sammy at slip,while another edge off the same bowler took him to his hundred off 73 balls. Another edge off captain Bravo fetched him his 19th boundary. Dhawan would hit one more before Bravo induced a leading edge with a slower ball one the would finally be carried. With the result purely a formality,Suresh Raina,who hasnt had the best of runs recently,got a good chance to get some time at the wicket. He managed 34 off 43 but wasnt there at the end after he nicked a wide ball through to the keeper with just nine runs to win.
Earlier,the West Indies Kieran Powell and Marlon Samuels made the most of their luck as they played-and-missed against the fast bowlers without consequence en route to scores of 70 and 71,respectively. The West Indies were poised for a strong finish when they took the batting powerplay at 168/2 in the 36th over. They,however,had a mid innings stall and only a flurry by Sammy and Darren Bravo who scored his third consecutive half century took the score to a competitive 263. That total was the second highest at the Green Park stadium. Third,after Dhawan and Yuvraj had their say.
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