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Yuvi, Sourav tons light India's day

cricket Updated: Dec 09, 2007 04:39 IST
Rohit Mahajan
Rohit Mahajan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Ten minutes before lunch, disaster struck India.

Ten minutes before lunch, the moment Yuvraj Singh had been waiting for since July 2006 arrived.

VVS Laxman, tall and upright, failed to bend low enough to keep a Yasir Arafat delivery out of the stumps. India 61/4.

In walked Yuvraj Singh, playing a Test for the first time after July last year.

The ball was 23 overs old, Arafat's nagging accuracy, his moving the ball both ways off the pitch, was stifling India. Shoaib Akhtar, weary and aching after his first spell, had got a rub-down and was sending down scorchers.

At the other end was Sourav Ganguly, his first captain and the man who had backed Yuvraj so much in his early international career. Yuvraj saw off the four balls he faced before lunch, getting hit by Arafat once.

There was similar danger after lunch — Yuvraj spotted an Akhtar bouncer late, took his eyes off the ball and the ball just eluded the man at short-leg.

Then, with no warning, the danger passed, the momentum shifted, the game changed.

The ponderous gait of Akhtar, the familiar painful scowl on his face suggested another breakdown; Sami looked pedestrian as the ball lost its shine. For Pakistan, there was no one else to go to on a pitch that was beginning to ease up.

Ganguly, driving beautifully on the offside with his accustomed flair and nerve, set the tenor and Yuvraj took the cue.

Yuvraj hit his first four off the 12th ball he faced, spanking Arafat to the square-leg fence. And that, he later said, changed his mind and charged him up.

After bowling 10 overs, Akhtar went off, straight to hospital — muscle spasms in the lower back were bothering him.

As Ganguly and Yuvraj punched back, their backs to the wall, the crowd seemed to get the sniff of a mortal conflict, one that would make or mar one team.

Mexican waves, accompanied by enormous roars, were initiated, waking up the echoes in and around the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Singles were applauded with frenzy, the boundaries with delirium. Clearly, the crowd was determined to stir up something special.

And something special was stirred up in the middle. The arena, hitherto darkened by a lonely, vagrant cloud, was lit by sunlight and the strokes of genius by Yuvraj and Ganguly.

Yuvraj was in supreme form, everything he touched turned into gold. One edge flew off his bat to the wicketkeeper's left, Younis Khan at slip got a hand to it but it did not stick.

And Yuvraj rubbed it in. He drove with control and immense power, forcing the bowlers to alter their length, and pulled with still greater strength.

At the other end, Ganguly seemed to have turned the clock back, as he caressed the ball through the covers, even boyishly angling his bat to send one over the slips.

Sami, who had pitched the new ball short and still didn't bother the batsmen, did not know where to bowl to. He was brave enough to persist with length balls, beat Ganguly once with one that seaming right across the batsman.

Yuvraj got over 100 of his runs square of the wicket, a clear sign that he had forced Pakistan to bowl to his strengths; Ganguly, similarly, scored heavily in the off-side --- 97 of his 125*.

Under attack, the Pakistanis began to look listless, shuffling their feet, swinging their arms. The crowd began to weary with the lack of contest.

Then the magical moment arrived --- Arafat, extremely considerate, gave Yuvraj a short one wide outside off, Yuvraj smashed it to the cover boundary, leapt up mid-pitch and hugged Ganguly. Ganguly got to his 100 in similar manner, driving Yasir Hameed to cover.

Yuvraj continued to hammer Pakistan, and it was only late in the day that he played a false stroke.

The day had begun much differently; Gautam Gambhir poked at the 19th ball he faced and edged; Dravid dazzled a brief while, going uncharacteristically for very aggressive shots at the start and paying; Jaffer paid for a lapse in concentration.

It was Pakistan’s game to give away after that, or India’s to take. Yuvraj and Ganguly took it.

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