His ability as a Test batsman might be a debatable point, or may be not anymore. But talk about the shorter format, be it Twenty20 or 50-50, and you can’t just keep Yuvraj Singh out.
Yesterday, in the first of the two-game T20 series against England at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium, Yuvi brought India back in the game not once, but twice to give them their first international win, in over a month.
The man from Punjab first did the job with his left-arm spin, taking three wickets in the space of his two overs, to pull England back from 89 for 1 in 10 overs to 99 for three in 13 balls. The spell, which saw Yuvi changing his pace and length very smartly, had a telling impact on the England innings, as they ended up scoring 157 for 6, not quite a par score on a track where ball was coming on to the bat nicely, and at a good height.
Man of the match Yuvi did his second part of the job with an equally, if not a more telling impact, with India in a similar situation. They had lost openers Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane in the same over, and England were beginning to look like pulling the run-rate down.
Batting at No 4, he smacked three sixes, two of them in the same over from Danny Briggs, in his knock of 21-ball 38. Although a miss-timed pull shot off Luke Wright brought a premature end to Yuvraj’s blossoming innings, the tough job was done, with India needing just 65 runs off the next 60 balls.
Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, who showed that he backs himself more than Ravindra Jadeja in any format, finished the job with minimum fuss to give India a 1-0 lead in the two-match series with a five-wicket win. Earlier, the England innings was basically about two halfs, with the first one being dominated by the visitors, and India pulling things back in the second.
The first half was all about Alex Hales and Luke Wright smacking error-prone Indian bowling all-round the park. England scored 89 runs, out of which 68 were scored by Hales-Wright in just 42 balls.
Ashoke Dinda, Parwinder Awana and Piyush Chawla, all guilty of bowling short, were punished in great style by the English duo.
The first over of the second half saw Yuvraj getting rid of Luke Wright, caught at long off, and the left-arm spinner followed that up with the wickets of Hales and England skipper Eoin Morgan in his next over. Three wickets in three overs, and the equations changed dramatically.
Having looked like getting to 180 at one stage, England suddenly started struggling to get to even 150. It was only after James Buttler smashed a below-par debutant Awana for two sixes in a 17-run last over, that England got to 157. In all they scored 68 runs in the second half, a run-rate of below seven, losing five wickets in the process.