Whose return to form has been the most pleasing, asked a poll question on television, and Yuvraj was the popular choice by a large margin, over Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. You could see why. Yuvraj hadn't just scored runs like the other two, he had been explosive. His first six tonight was off a powerful sweep against Tahir. It landed a few rows back in the stands. He kept getting better and better. The next two deliveries sailed deep into the crowd too - the first one over cover and the second one into the second tier behind long-off.
The hat-trick part - II
Shukla had bowled his first three overs for 14 runs and had dismissed Chris Gayle with the ball and Kohli with his fielding. But then he came up against a steaming hot Yuvraj in the last over. He tried to bowl a full and wide line to Yuvraj but was smoked into the stands over cover with imperious drives off consecutive deliveries. When he shortened his length for the third delivery, Yuvraj was ready for the pull and swatted the ball over fine leg, scoring his second hat-trick of sixes.
After taking 27 runs off the first five legal deliveries in the last over of the innings, Yuvraj finally missed the last ball. But no one was ready to leave the field just as yet - Rahul Shukla went to the top of his run-up, Yuvraj readied himself to play the supposed last delivery and the fielders stayed where they were. Belatedly, the umpires realised the innings was over. It was another case of everyone at the ground being in a daze; yesterday, a Mumbai batsman incorrectly took strike after a time-out and no one realised the error till the end of the innings.
Virat Kohli is an excellent runner between the wickets but his wretched run was extended by an excellent throw from the deep. Kohli got an inside edge down to deep backward square leg off Imran Tahir and looked set for a couple, but Rahul Shukla, who had earlier sent Gayle back, charged towards the ball, swooped low and fired a flat throw, without wasting time in getting in an upright position, right on top of the stumps. Kohli, the replays showed, was only a few inches short.
That Chris Gayle cannot run is no secret. That means he has to be hidden in the field, in positions close to the bat. The only job he is needed to do then is to take catches - he is a dependable catcher - and stop the balls hit straight at him. Tonight was not a good night for him at the office though. First he dropped Mayank Agarwal at slip off Yuzvendra Chahal in the eighth over - a regulation chance, then, at point, he juggled a high chance before dropping it, off JP Duminy's bat in the 17th over. The second one of those could have been a gamechanger, but luckily for Gayle, Duminy could add only six more runs.
Today was not turning out as one of those happy days for legspinner Chahal, the find of the season for Royal Challengers, not at least in his first 17 balls. He had been hit for two fours and three sixes, a catch had been dropped off his bowling and 36 runs had been taken off him. But out of nowhere, he unleashed the ball of the day. Kevin Pietersen stepped out early knowing that Chahal doesn't turn much. The bowler though spotted the move, slowed it down, got it to drift in and then turn a mile past the swinging bat to end Pietersen's stay.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo