You have got to fear Yusuf Pathan
You have got to fear a man who knows he can hit anything in his arc for a six. You have got to fear a man who can keep getting hit in the shoulder off the bouncers, and still keeps coming back to smack the fuller deliveries into the crowd. You have got to fear a man who asks for a Powerplay, and still keeps clearing the three men on the boundary. You have got to fear Yusuf Pathan in his current form.
Yusuf has turned three of the last four games he has batted in on their head with some of the cleanest, sustained hitting you'll see. In those three innings he has hit 18 sixes in 216 deliveries, eight of them Sunday. Two of those knocks have won India games from the dead, and one of them gave South Africa a mighty scare after India had been 119 for 8, chasing 268. Two of those innings have come in South Africa against an attack that has peppered him with bouncers, in a series where no other batsman has managed to maintain a strike-rate of a run a ball. His strike-rate of 134.95 tells some other story.
Yusuf has scars to show too. Twice in Cape Town, he was hit in the shoulder, but he just rubbed it and went about making the most of the loose deliveries. On Sunday, another delivery got him in the shoulder, after which he had to get some treatment. His response was to ask for a Powerplay, which he was denied. Even though it was still the start of the over, it seemed the umpires deemed the bowler, Johan Botha, was at his mark already. Hence, he was not allowed the Powerplay.
Bad shoulder, no Powerplay, smack back-to-back sixes over the deep fielders' heads. You have got to fear Yusuf Pathan. On a day that seemed depressingly similar to India as the first day of the tour, when they were bowled out for 136, Yusuf provided them comfort. So much comfort that their captain later said that the lesson from today was that they can chase any total down in the last 10 overs, in the World Cup.
That comfort comes from the knowledge that Yusuf will hurt anything remotely loose just as bad as anybody else does. Those margins of error reduce when he is playing in the form he is in right now. The thinking is not clear then, not with the captain, not with the bowlers. Graeme Smith later said that his side backed off a bit when Yusuf had got going, that his side wasn't as aggressive as it should have been. That, though, wasn't a conscious decision his side had made; that's what somebody hitting sixes as sweetly and cleanly as Yusuf was doing does to any side.
Yusuf also seems to have added the cute - still powerful - shots to his repertoire. He reverse-swept for a six, he flicked over short fine leg from outside off, he ran hard between the wickets. In a 100-run partnership for the ninth wicket, Zaheer Khan, his partner, scored only 13. That South Africa were worried could be seen, that India were feeling it could be seen, that the crowd - no matter who they supported - was enjoying it could be heard.
Yusuf's century off 68 balls, the sixth-fastest by an Indian, and the second-fastest outside the subcontinent, didn't win India the match: it was too much of a climb after the hole the top order had dug. When he walked back after his dismissal, not one person in the sold-out SuperSport Park was sitting. They knew they had seen something special: one of the best exhibitions of hitting in a losing cause. They let Yusuf know that. They were thanking Yusuf for rescuing the last day of what has been a thoroughly enjoyable tour for them. They won't say the tour ended in a whimper. There was a Yusuf Pathan bang at the end.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo