All-round Yuvraj powers India to victory
India 158 for 5 (Yuvraj 38) beat England 157 for 6 (Hales 56, Yuvraj 3-19) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Yuvraj Singh's decade-long attempt to secure a permanent spot in the Test team may have been thwarted once again this month, but in the first Twenty20 against England he once again showed why he is indispensable in limited-overs formats. First, his spell of left-arm spin upended England's innings and then his burst of hitting smoothened India's path to a comprehensive victory.
In the first international match at the Subrata Roy Stadium in Pune, Alex Hales and Luke Wright had muscled 68 in seven overs for the second wicket as England rattled along at more than 10 an over. Hales began with two powerful pulls for four in the first over, and then showed off his straight-hitting to sprint to a 26-ball half-century, his fourth for England. Unlike Hales, Wright hadn't spent time in India with the England Performance Programme squad but he too played a fluent boundary-filled innings, not flustered by the change in conditions from the Big Bash League in Australia.
Yuvraj's introduction in the ninth over transformed the game. He was the seventh bowler MS Dhoni turned to as India desperately searched for ways to stall the runs, and he immediately delivered. Five of the previous six overs had been punished for 10 runs or more, but Yuvraj in his first gave away just five singles. In his next, he had Luke Wright caught at long-off. In his third, Hales was dropped by Dhoni, then bowled before England captain Eoin Morgan gave long-on a catch. The triple-blow sucked out the momentum from the innings, and by the end of his spell the run-rate was down to around seven-and-a-half.
Ashok Dinda, leading India's pace attack though he himself is fairly new to international cricket, delivered the perfect penultimate over, taking two wickets and giving away only two runs. Either side of that though, Dhoni's go-to bowler in Twenty20s, R Ashwin, and debutant fast bowler Parvinder Awana were hit for two sixes in an over each as Jos Buttler's unbeaten 33 lifted England to 157.
That was a score India looked happy to concede on a good track in a stadium with short boundaries. Their task was made easier by the poor line of England's new-ball bowlers, who gifted plenty of runs down the leg side. Ajinkya Rahane, a near-permanent fixture on the India bench, finally got a chance in the middle, and he jumpstarted the chase with a couple of straight sixes.
Though Tim Bresnan got his first international wickets since September by removing both Rahane and Gautam Gambhir in the fifth over, Yuvraj kept the large crowd cheering with a 21-ball 38. That included an onslaught on left-arm spinner Danny Briggs, who was taken for 18 in his only over of the game. Soon after, Yuvraj top-edged a pull off Luke Wright for six and though he connected solidly on the next delivery as well, it soared too high and didn't clear the rope, falling in the hands of Stuart Meaker.
India were already 93 for 3 in the 10th over by the time Yuvraj was dismissed, and Suresh Raina and Dhoni weren't unduly troubled as India knocked off the runs required to confirm victory in the 18th over.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo