RAJKOT (TIP): In his second comeback after recovering from cancer, a leaner and fitter Yuvraj Singh was called upon to do a job he has done numerous times for India in ODIs – revive a floundering chase, with MS Dhoni for company, and only the lower order to follow. Only, this was a T20 and Yuvraj did not have the luxury of building his innings before accelerating. He duly cut out the building part, and unleashed trademark pick-up sixes and lofted drives to haul in the target of 202 with two deliveries remaining. India were facing an asking-rate of nearly 12 at 100 for 4 in the 12th over, but Yuvraj’s response was so forceful, that all Dhoni needed to do was give him the strike. By the end, the partnership was 102 at exactly two runs a ball, Yuvraj’s 77 off 35 showing his dominance. Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli had all failed to kick on from starts and India’s innings was in danger of going Australia’s way, who had lost too many wickets in maintaining a frenetic pace of scoring, and had run out of steam at the death.
Aaron Finch seemed set to carry Australia way over 200 but his exit in the 17th over for 89 off 52 helped India keep the visitors to 201, as only 29 came off the final four. India themselves needed 49 off the final four, but Yuvraj was in such flow that the big shot was always at hand. Yuvraj first took 18 off Clint McKay in the 14th over, and then, when the pressure escalated again, carted James Faulkner for successive sixes in the 17th. The timing on the boundaries was vintage Yuvraj, as was the effortlessness and grace. George Bailey’s preferred field of three men in the ring around point worked to Yuvraj’s advantage, as did the fact that Australia bowled too full to him. Dhoni did his bit, constantly scampering twos and ones as he does in ODI chases, and coming up with the crucial boundary, a typical stretch-and-club to cover, when it came down to six needed off four. Yuvraj’s cool assault meant Finch’s innings, and Australia’s electric start, were in vain. After being put in, Finch and debutant Nic Maddinson had kickstarted the innings with a 56-run partnership inside five overs. It was the manner in which the openers attacked the offspin of R Ashwin that stood out.
The highly-rated Maddinson, 21, calmly stepped out to Ashwin’s first delivery and lofted it cleanly over extra cover for four. Finch set about cutting and lofting with intent, and Ashwin’s first over cost India 17. Maddinson made 34 before missing a slog to be bowled. Vinay Kumar got both Shane Watson and George Bailey in the eighth over. Finch, meanwhile, kept battering boundaries, generating immense power and finding gaps consistently. He was swift and brutal on the cut, played the lofted drive repeatedly and when he went to cow corner, it was more timing and placement than slogging. Glenn Maxwell showed Australia were in no mood to relent even momentarily, swinging Ashwin for three sixes in the tenth over as the score zoomed to 114 for 3 at the halfway stage of the innings. Ashwin’s figures read 2-0-41-0, and Dhoni was forced to turn to Virat Kohli’s mediums for a couple of costly overs. Australia stalled after Finch clubbed a high full toss straight to Vinay. The blow split the webbing on the bowler’s left hand, but did not deter him from sending down a couple of tight overs. A last-ball six from Faulkner took the score past 200, but Yuvraj hunted it down with the calm of old.