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August 15, 2008
Yuvraj Singh's first experience of Sri Lanka in two years fetched him 172 from 121 balls in a warm-up match but he's all too aware that the real test starts next week when the first of five ODIs gets underway in Dambulla. There were no signs of the back and knee injuries either, which have troubled him of late, as he blasted 13 sixes in the 154 minutes he was at the crease at the PSS.
"[Muttiah] Muralitharan and [Ajantha] Mendis will be different and we will have to do very well to defeat Sri Lanka," said Yuvraj. "This was also a world-class attack [The Sri Lankan XI contained ten players with international experience] and this knock gave me a lot of confidence.
"I had prepared well before coming here, and I hope I can continue this form. The conditions at Dambulla will be different from here, so partnerships would be the key in order to post a good score. It's important we play according to the conditions and not to people's expectations."
Yuvraj averages a healthy 37.46 when playing in Sri Lanka, just higher than his overall career numbers, but he's determined to do better on this trip. "There's always the motivation to score runs whether you miss out or you don't," he said referring to his omission from the Tests. "But you always want to perform at your best. I want to make sure the performances in Sri Lanka are better than last time."
Usually off the mark with sublime drives square and through point, he struggled to get into the groove on Friday. The initial tendency to go hard at the ball resulted in a few crude shots, and he was also beaten off consecutive balls by Dilhara Fernando.
The pitch was double-paced, Yuvraj said, and so he altered his approach, instead relying on milking the spinners. "My intention was to spend time in the middle because I haven't played for a while," he said. "I prepared keeping in mind the conditions in Sri Lanka, the targets of the team, and it's nice that I succeeded immediately."
Once settled, he exploded. He took 22 runs off the 36th over, moving from 47 to 69. In the space of 16 balls he moved from 100 to 152, and fell soon after striking his 13th six. "I thought the team's target should be around 270," he said. "Making 200 on my own wouldn't have been easy, but I am happy with the team's performance. Winning the match is very important because we were the favourites in this match."
When he smashed four successive sixes in the 43rd over, was there a certain encore on the cards? "It was playing in my mind, but hitting a bowler for six sixes is very tough," Yuvraj said with a big grin.