India v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, Group B, Edgbaston June 4, 2017

Vintage Yuvraj enthralls festive crowd

Lack of match practice leading into the game wasn't a deterrent for Yuvraj Singh as his bruising half-century deflated the Pakistan attack

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Star turn

For four days upon landing in England, Yuvraj Singh was indisposed. He didn't train for two days and didn't play both the warm-up games. The team management allayed initial fears by confirming it was just viral fever. In the interim, Dinesh Karthik strengthened his case to feature in the starting XI for the Pakistan game by stroking 94 in the warm-up game against Bangladesh. Kedar Jadhav performing exceedingly well in India's previous ODI assignment, against England at home in January, meant he was a certainty, leaving Karthik tussling with Yuvraj for one middle-order slot. The team management backed their senior pro; a move that bore fruit.

On Sunday, Yuvraj injected momentum that triggered a late surge - India added 117 in the last 10 overs, their second-highest against a Test nation since Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid's carnage against Sri Lanka at the 1999 World Cup. He married his reach and high backlift to time the ball sweetly, allowing Virat Kohli - who was struggling for timing until then - more time to get into his groove.

All this wouldn't have been possible, however, if Yuvraj wasn't reprieved at long-off by Hasan Ali off Shadab Khan on 8. After that, he batted with sage-like calm, managing to time the ball cleanly without playing a shot in desperation. There were the odd short balls targeted at his body, but he wasn't fussed about them. This was pure, unadulterated hitting that fetched Yuvraj a half-century off just 29 balls, along the way unleashing some sensational checked drives to piece all parts of the ground.

The wow moment

Hasan has a good yorker. He also gets the ball to tail away late. Yuvraj showed his game awareness by staying deep inside the crease so that he could use the extra centimeter to his advantage. Hasan bowled almost a yorker. Yuvraj cleared his front leg slightly and let his powerful forearms take over as he met the ball next to his front foot to drill the ball past the bowler. Long-off, no more than a few yards away, had no chance despite a quick dash and dive to his left. A dot ball later, he showed how well he was reading the bowler's mind. It was almost as if he was waiting for the short ball as he swiveled back to pull the ball over deep midwicket.

Stats that matter

  • Yuvraj's 29-ball fifty is the fastest by an Indian in the Champions Trophy.
  • Yuvraj's knock made it the fourth instance in ODIs where India's top four made 50 or more

What they said

"I felt like a club batsman while playing alongside Yuvi, the way he was hitting the ball,"Virat Kohli on the magic he saw from the other end

"Wow. @Yuvstrong12 still nailing it and as usual looking super cool,"Adam Gilchrist, who watched from behind the stumps a young Yuvraj destroy Australia nearly 17 years ago, gave his thumbs up to the knock

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo