Yuvraj Singh cracked a dazzling 72 before the bowlers staged a brilliant recovery at the death overs as India clinched a nerve-wracking 11-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in the second T20 International to level the series 1-1 on Friday.
India posted a competitive 192 riding on Yuvraj’s 36-ball-knock that included seven huge sixes, and then restricted the rivals to 181 for seven with the bowlers finding their mojo just in the nick of time.
Paceman Ashok Dinda scalped three for 36 including the important wicket of rival captain Mohammed Hafeez (55) in the penultimate over to turn the tide in India’s favour at the jam-packed Sardar Patel Stadium.
At one stage, Pakistan seemed to be well and truly on course to overhaul India’s challenging target but Dinda and Ishant Sharma kept their cool during the death overs to seal the issue in hosts’ favour.
Needing 20 runs off the final over bowled by Ishant, Umar Gul and Shoaib Malik could manage only eight runs much to the delight of the home crowd and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni whose leadership has been under the scanner for some time now.
Apart from Hafeez, who scored his runs off only 26 balls with six fours and three sixes, openers Nasir Jamshed (41) and Ahmed Shehzad (31) were the other notable contributors for the visitors.
Pakistan captain Hafeez came in at the fall of Shehzad’s wicket and took the Indian attack to the cleaners hitting five fours and three sixes. The two shots that stood out was a scoop off Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s bowling once he saw that the fine leg was up. The second was a six over extra cover off Ishant’s bowling.
He also hit a couple of boundaries off Ashok Dinda and the equation suddenly changed. When Umar Akmal was cleaned by Dinda, the pair had added 62 runs in 5.3 overs. The Pakistan captain completed his back-to-back half century with a smash past the bowler. Hafeez completed the landmark in 23 deliveries with five fours and three sixes.
Shahid Afridi hit a four and six in his customary style before he was caught by Rohit off Bhuvneshwar’s bowling. The UP lad learnt a tough lesson as he finished with poor figures of one for 46 in four overs.
As the match looked like slipping away from India’s grasp, Dinda dismissed Hafeez and Kamran Akmal with slower deliveries to set up an exciting final over after which Ishant wrapped up the proceedings. Pakistan started their chase in right earnest as openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad added 74 runs for the opening stand. It was the introduction of Ashwin that slowed down the proceedings. Skipper Dhoni dropped Jamshed on 40 off Ashwin but the opener couldn’t capitalise on the miss as he tried to hit the offie over point but was holed out to Virat Kohli for 41. Jamshed hit four fours and a six.
Yuvraj, who could do no wrong today, was greeted with straight six by Umar but he got Shehzad stumped as the batsman was trying to give him the charge. Shehzad scored 31 off 29 balls with three boundaries and a six.
Earlier, a flamboyant Yuvraj muscled his way to a scintillating 72 as India scored a massive 192 for five after being put into bat.
Yuvraj’s career-best T20 knock could not have come at a more opportune time as it lifted India to a defendable total after being pegged back by three quick strikes.
Ever since Yuvraj arrived on the wicket, Pakistani bowlers bled runs as the left-hander plundered seven huge sixes and four boundaries in his 36-ball blitzkrieg to entertain a jam-packed house.
With skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (33) he added 97-runs for the fourth wicket as India put on board its highest total against Pakistan in T20 Internationals.
Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal bore the brunt of Yuvraj’s fury as the Indian creamed four sixes off him with three coming in a row in the 19th over, which yielded India 22 runs.
Yuvraj was out in the last over off paceman Umar Gul, who was the most successful bowler for Pakistan with four wickets at the expense of just 37 runs.
Earlier, India openers provided a fiery start, adding 44 runs inside five overs, but neither Gautam Gambhir (21) nor Ajinkya Rahane (28) could build on that.
The two openers were in good touch, driving and cutting elegantly. Rahane found boundaries on the off-side despite facing a packed off-side field and also flicked confidently.
Gambhir was in much better form than Bangalore and his drives off Sohail Tanvir was a treat to watch but Gul removed both of them in space of two overs.
Gambhir departed after hitting Gul for three consecutive boundaries as he was foxed by a slower one. Gul returned and effected Rahane’s dismissal with a catch in his follow through when the diminutive batsman miscued a pull shot.
Young fast bowler Mohammed Irfan was again impressive as he welcomed Yuvraj with a toe-crushing yorker.
The two quick wickets pegged India back, free-flowing runs stopped and pressure was on Yuvraj and Virat Kohli to wriggle the side out of the tight situation.
Kohli (27) too departed after getting his eye in when a confusion between him and Yuvraj resulted in his run out.
Dhoni arrived and meant business straight away, dispatching one from Shahid Afridi with a lofted drive to the fence. Yuvraj too started the fireworks, hitting a massive six off Afridi over mid-wicket to bring up India’s 100 as India reeled off 17 runs in the 13th over.
Ajmal too got the same treatment by Yuvraj as one of his deliveries vanished in the crowd. Dhoni and Yuvraj continued in the same vein till the end and ensured the India have enough runs on the board to defend.
India Innings: G Gambhir lbw U Gul 21, A Rahane c & b U Gul 28, V Kohli runout (S Ajmal) 27, Y Singh c S Malik & b U Gul 72, MS Dhoni(c) & (wk) b U Gul 33, S Raina not out 1, R Sharma not out 4 Extras b – 0, lb – 5, w – 0, nb – 1, Total – 6 Total: (192 for 5 in 20 overs) 192 (9.6 runs per over) FoW: 1/44, 2/53, 3/88, 4/185, 5/187 Bowler: Mohammad Irfan 4-0-20-0, Sohail Tanvir 4-0-44-0, Umar Gul 4-0-37-4, Saeed Ajmal 4-0-42-0, Shahid Afridi 3-0-33-0, Mohammad Hafeez(c) 1-0-11-0
Pakistan Innings: N Jamshed c V Kohli & b R Ashwin 41, A Shehzad st M Dhoni & b Y Singh 31, U Akmal b A Dinda 24, M Hafeez(c) c S Raina & b A Dinda 55, S Afridi c R Sharma & b B Kumar 11, K Akmal(wk) c V Kohli & b A Dinda 5, S Malik not out 3, U Gul c A Rahane & b I Sharma 5. Extras b – 0, lb – 2, w – 4, nb – 0, Total – 6 Total: (181 for 7 in 20 overs) 181 (9.05 runs per over) FoW: 1/74, 2/84, 3/146, 4/163, 5/168, 6/172, 7/181.Bowler: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-0-46-1, Ishant Sharma 4-0-34-1, Ashok Dinda 4-0-36-3, Ravichandran Ashwin 4-0-28-1, Suresh Raina 2-0-12-0, Yuvraj Singh 2-0-23-1