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Back on the double, perfect start to season

cricket Updated: Oct 16, 2012 01:56 IST
Kaushik Chatterji
Kaushik Chatterji
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

A double century in double-quick time that ended one shy of his personal best. Two whole sessions in the scorching sun, standing mostly still at first slip but snaffling a sharp catch off a big tweaker.

And at the fag end of it all, an uneventful guest appearance with the ball. All this, over the first two days on his return to first-class cricket after winning a year-long fight against cancer.

If Day One of the Duleep Trophy semifinal between North Zone and Central seemed to have all the makings of a movie, Monday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium rounded off a neat little vignette. Not exactly a Bollywood pot boiler but definitely in the multiplex mould, accentuated by the metaphor of the setting - the home of VVS Laxman, whose Test spot is up for grabs.

By the time Yuvraj Singh took guard on Sunday afternoon, 164 minutes had elapsed in the match. The pitch had lost whatever little zing it initially had; clouds masked the afternoon heat. So despite his racy century, some questions remained.

Sharp Responses
One of the interrogators had been Rituraj Singh. The Central medium pacer with a front-on action and a tendency to skid on had made Yuvraj look awkward at times even with a ball that was more than 40 overs old.

On Monday morning, the bowler had the added advantage of a ball that was still fairly new and a pitch that was fresh from a good night's sleep. On a couple of occasions in the third over of his spell, Rituraj kept it back of a length, and was treated with respect by the centurion. Then he overpitched. The ball vanished past him and into the boundary.

Two overs later, after a short one was pulled away for another four, Yuvraj was beaten by three successive deliveries - two slower ones, and one swipe that resulted in an unsuccessful appeal. And then, Rituraj missed his length. The low full toss was cut away over point for four more.

Granted, the quality of the bowling attack might not have been top-drawer -
Praveen Kumar and Murali Kartik were the only ones to have played for India. Still, the first hour had to be seen off and the loose deliveries put away.

Yuvraj did both. Soon, order was restored. Kartik continued to be treated with disdain - a cut behind square off the left-arm spinner brought up the 150, a delivery on the pads was sent to the fine leg boundary for the double. Then, Yuvraj played one shot too many off the veteran and paid the price, presenting a return catch at a comfortable height.

Another vital question remained. How will he fare in the field? Yuvraj took the field post-lunch but stood at slip all through.

He did complete a sharp catch, diving to snap up Vineet Saxena off Amit Mishra's leg-break, and then sent down the penultimate over of the day, promising more on Tuesday.

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