There was some doubt regarding the legitimacy of the catch taken by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar at fine leg. Even as the dismissal was being confirmed, an impatient Praveen Kumar could be seen directing Nitin Saini back to the pavilion while beckoning the new batsman.
All this took a couple of minutes, but that was all the bunch of young aspirants — on a break from their Sunday routines — needed. As they trickled in and settled down in their seats, Yuvraj Singh took guard, 11 months after he had last walked out in whites, and two years since he had struck a ton while sporting them.
An attacking field in place, Praveen charged in and kept it a bit short. Up to the challenge, Yuvraj guided it between the slip cordon and gully to third man. Off the mark with a boundary, it was the first of 22 hit by the North Zone batsman on Day One of the Duleep Trophy semifinal against Central.
Intentional edges and a lone uppercut went behind the wicket, square cuts and back-foot punches abounded, two massive ones flew over deep mid-wicket; also employed was the reverse-hit.
If playing to the gallery — empty as it was, barring those youngsters, a few (including the selectors) whose job required them to be there, and a couple of canines — Yuvraj was nailing it.
Early on, calling Shikhar Dhawan for a quick one was to display his eagerness to get back on strike. Sharp singles became rarer as the sun emerged from behind the clouds and the minutes wore on, even though a rather sluggish outfield forced him to run the twos and threes. But one did bring up his first half-century in first-class cricket since England last summer. Fifty off just 65 balls, after 81 minutes in the middle.
But the icing on the cake was the manner in which he crossed the 100-mark. One shy, the southpaw got an inside-edge off a Murali Kartik delivery. Discovering that the ball had rolled past the backward short-leg fielder, Yuvraj set off, only to slip and fall. The fielder fumbled; the batsman slunk back to safety. Composure regained, Yuvraj decided to make his comeback ton slightly more memorable - the very next ball was slog-swept out of the park.
By the time stumps were drawn, Yuvraj had spent nearly 4 hours in the October heat and faced 152 balls. He had maintained a strike rate of nearly 90, and put to shade the other century — opener Dhawan's 122 was his sixth 50-plus score on the trot.
Granted, the pitch was a belter. But with both England and Australia scheduled to tour India, he has done what he needed to.
The men who came back
Yuvraj Singh’s century on his first-class return has brightened his chances for a Test comeback. Here are some instances of players using the domestic competition to regain their India spots
The ‘comeback king’ made his most famous return by stroking 185 for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy final in 1982 to overcome Karnataka. It also heralded the courageous batsman’s most productive phase, including 5 tons in Pakistan & West Indies & the 1983 World Cup win.
The batsman was banished after making just one on his India debut in an ODI versus Pakistan in Mohali in 1999. But his strong domestic showing ensured his comeback after nine months. He sealed a permanent India spot with a MoM effort in an ODI vs Australia in March 2001.
Sidelined after a forgettable India debut on the ’91-92 tour of Australia and heavily criticised for his attitude, he returned to the domestic scene and performed over four seasons, getting an India recall on the ’96 England tour where he made his Test debut and cemented his spot.
Struggling due to inconsistent form, the left-arm paceman was dropped from the India side in 2006 but hit the domestic circuit and then headed off to England to play for Worcestershire, where he regained his rhythm, pace and movement playing day in and day out to return stronger