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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on June 5, 2017, 18:56 GMT

    @HADESLOGIC: You are right on. There are some batsmen in this team who are shaky starters. They need some luck in terms of dropped catches or edges missing the fielders, to build a big innings. That is mainly because of their footwork deficiencies. Those who questioned Yuvraj's selection, it was mainly because of his Fitness issues as well as his Footwork. Truly enough Yuvraj was dropped at 8, which helped him to move forward. It remains to be proven whether Yuvraj can do the same Vs. Teams at the playoff stage because the catching will be sharper & bowling more challenging. Nevertheless it was a brilliant innings from Yuvraj which woke up the Indian batting! May he continue in that vain & I wish him best of luck!

  • Tughral on June 5, 2017, 11:13 GMT

    Cant believe people are asking for him to be dropped.But then you guys have so many brilliant batters.As a Pak fan I wouldn't mind playing someone like Yuvraj even when he is 40!Not one player in our line-up compares to him and this is someone who is on thin ice in your side..Makes you realize how huge the gap is now between India and Pakistan.

  • Sanjay on June 5, 2017, 10:37 GMT

    Punjabi Power maan, pure and simple.

  •   Rohit Jain on June 5, 2017, 8:40 GMT

    Yuvraj Singh is the greatest match winner/game changer India have ever had. The sole reason behind his resurgence in 2017 (200+ runs in 3 matches vs Eng in Jan) is Virat Kohli's faith and confidence. Those are the things he needed most from Dhoni after recovering from cancer and making a comeback, but he never got the trust from Dhoni. Instead, Dhoni was, has always been, more kind to Raina. who would still be on team if Dhoni was captain instead of Kohli. After cancer, Yuvraj lost 6-7 years of his prime. If he was backed by Dhoni then, he would be a different animal today.

    Those so called 'fans' claiming Yuvraj should be dropped despite his consistent great performances due to his age will never speak about Dhoni's age who struggled to connect, let alone hit a length ball in IPL until last 2 overs in every single game. Why they don't talk about his reflexes and timing? Why such double standards? What has Yuvi done to you guys? He's a cancer survivor and living example of a fighter.

  • Ron on June 5, 2017, 7:53 GMT

    Caveats first: I am a big Yuvi fan, probably the cleanest hitter and best fielder we have ever had. His MoM performances are probably second only to Sachin. BUT calling for Yuvi to be dropped was not, and still isn't, unjustified. No one can bank only on past glory to coast in the team. Unfortunately for him, the health issues and ageing has taken a toll on his body. We got lucky yesterday but the signs are there that this won't work against the better team (SA, Aus, NZ or even Eng) outside Ind. His feet don't move, reflexes have slowed down, slow running between wickets and he has to be partly hidden in the field. If he proves himself in the tournament, I would be more than happy that we have him but I do think his time (to go) has come.

  • Neil on June 5, 2017, 7:25 GMT

    I wish Yuvi all the best and hope he finds a way out to his initial hesitations and all those fumbles just after occupying crease at the very early stage of his innings, where he is seen to have given a lot of chances! That is the only shortcoming he still has, if he gets rid of that, he could be man too watch in this championship as well!!

  • vamsi61782281 on June 5, 2017, 7:20 GMT

    He has 10 MoM awards in ICC trophies (second most) which shows what kind of player he is. There are many like Raina who scores loads of Runs in IPL and do nothing in big matches.

  • Umezz on June 5, 2017, 5:46 GMT

    The players found by Ganguly are loaded with talent and are big match players. Sehwag, Yuvi, Zaheer, Gambhir, Bhaji all delivered and are part of big success in India's biggest achievements in Cricket. Players found by Dhoni are no match to these guys Dhawan, Rohit, Ashwin, Jadeja look at the no of changes gives to them even for us to digest and accept the fact they are playing for India. People talk about his form, age etc but he is champion fought his way back from cancer and all criticisms and yet he delivers and plays like a Champion. Remember he got never carried away with his past records or seniority unlike many senior players at his age. He will be aiming for 2019 WC and I hope this legend completes his career with another WC victory!

  • arunlo5785785 on June 5, 2017, 4:14 GMT

    Yuvraj Sing is one of the greatest ODI player for india and in pressure situation he is different to watch. I think in WC 2016 was a big mistake of indian selectors and management not to select him.

  • jaya on June 5, 2017, 2:25 GMT

    Indeed we saw sparks of his old brilliant batting by Yuvraj .I hope he continues the form .The catch dropped by Hasan Ali of Yuvaraj,9 out of 10 times it would have been taken.I am still not confident about his form.I hope i am proved wrong and Yuvraj plays few more such innings in this championship against better bowling sides.Till then i keep my fingers crossed about his form.This is because his form is fluctuating between shades of brilliance to below par performences.

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