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Brilliant Yuvraj scripts thrilling win

Aaron Finch’s 52-ball 89 goes in vain as India chases down 202-run target

Brilliant Yuvraj scripts thrilling win - Cricket News
Yuvraj Singh plays a shot.
If India’s batsmen felt any pressure when they looked at a target of 202 in the one-off Twenty20 International against Australia in Rajkot, they did not show it, forging a six-wicket win on the back of a Yuvraj Singh special. A top order stacked with heavy hitters kept a packed house of close to 30,000 entertained till late on Thursday (October 10) night, and there was even the odd moment when those absorbed in the game forgot that it was the day their favourite son had announced his impending retirement. The king was on his way out, but the prince was back in the house.

The advantage of having a line-up full of matchwinners is that the fall of wickets does not necessarily slow the pace of the innings down significantly. Shikhar Dhawan blazed away with his unique mix of cuts and glances, racking up 32 from 19 before being smartly stumped off Xavier Doherty. Suresh Raina carried the baton and sprinted, smacking two fours and a towering six in his 13-ball 19, and even his departure, top-edging a pull, did not particularly give India need for pause.

Virat Kohli, who can never be accused of lacking self belief, ran his runs hard and pulled out the big shot when the ball was right, such as the time Doherty tossed it up, only to be deposited in the stands over long off. Just as Kohli and Yuvraj were settling into a good groove though, Kohli holed out to wide long on, but he too had done his bit, scoring his 29 runs at a strike rate of more than 130.

Then came the passage of play that sealed the deal. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, walking out to the middle to join Yuvraj with 102 needed from 53 balls, blended brutal attack with ice in the veins.

Dhoni needed only to keep the running between the wickets tidy and the put the odd rank bad ball away as Yuvraj pinged the boundary hoardings with an unmatched range of shots. When mid off was in the circle, it was no effort to lift the ball over the fielder; when the slower ball was sent down, Yuvraj waited on it and steered past the wicketkeeper; the full ball was whipped brutally over midwicket; and short balls were treated with the most disdain.

When the required rate mounted, Yuvraj responded in dramatic fashion, bringing up his half-century off only 25 balls. Where a younger Yuvraj may have got carried away with the situation and how sweetly the ball was flying off the middle of the bat, the more mature Yuvraj Mark III stayed the course and saw India home. Yuvraj’s chanceless unbeaten 77 had come at the frightening strike rate of 220 and included five of the most sweetly struck sixes you could hope to see and eight authoritative boundaries.

If Yuvraj married power with elegance, the tone on that count was set early in the day, when Nic Maddinson, playing for Australia for the first time, brought back memories of Adam Gilchrist with his fast hands and a rasping blade. Maddinson, who attacked compulsively, taking the aerial route whenever it was open to him, forced Dhoni to swap his bowlers around.

Maddinson was perfectly democratic in attack, taking apart spinners and pacemen alike. But his biggest strength, the ability to unflinchingly attack, proved his downfall as well, when he heaved against Bhuvneshwar Kumar and lost his off stump for a 16-ball 34.

But, even as Maddinson was catching the eye, it was Aaron Finch, a familiar foe to many of India’s Indian Premier League stalwarts, who played the innings of substance. When he played the big shot, Finch did not hold back, and had more than enough power to clear the ropes. And when there was even the slightest doubt that the fielder in the deep would come into play, Finch checked himself. The approach paid off, as he brought up his half-century off only 29 balls and then pressed on, even as wickets fell at the other end.

R Ashwin had a rare bad day in office, being taken for 17 and 24 off the first two overs he bowled, after which he was removed from the attack, never to return. Australia had romped to 172 for 5 in 16 overs and was perfectly poised to blow India away at the death. But when Finch (89, 52b, 14x4, 1x6) fell with the score on 174, the wheels came off the innings. India’s bowlers salvaged their figures, Vinay Kumar finishing with 3 for 26 while Bhuvneshwar snagged 3 for 35. Australia managed only 29 from its last four overs, and ended on 201, which was never going be enough if one of India’s big guns fired. On the day, it was Yuvraj whose bat did the talking.

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