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Yuvraj's heroics sink England again

With consecutive hundreds in the first two one-dayers , the left-hander has announced his claim as one of the most serious contenders for the berth left vacant by Ganguly, reports Nilankur Das. See Full Scorecard

cricket Updated: Nov 18, 2008 02:28 IST
Nilankur Das

His bat brandished towards the dressing room, kisses blown to the packed stands and a quick prayer — it was an elaborate celebration by Yuvraj Singh on Monday as he nudged one to the covers to get to three figures. He had started celebrating even before completing the single. And why not?

With consecutive hundreds in the first two one-dayers of the Hero Honda Cup, the flamboyant left-hander who came into this seven-match series trying hard to shake off a bad patch, has announced his claim as one of the most serious contenders for the middle-order Testy berth left vacant by Sourav Ganguly.

Also he has now emulated the 'Fab Four' of Indian cricket with back-to-back ODI centuries. Only three batsmen — Zaheer Abbas, Saeed Anwar and Harschelle Gibbs — have a hattrick of ODI tons to their name and now Kanpur holds the promise of this elite membership for Yuvraj.

That wasn't all. He was the pick of the Indian bowlers providing skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who introduced him ahead of Harbhajan Singh, with four breakthroughs scripting a 54-run win and a 2-0 lead in the series.

He was unlucky not to get Andrew Flintoff, who appeared to have edged one to the keeper early in the innings, but came back to claim both him and Kevin Pietersen in his final over after England had completed the third Powerplay from 33 to 37 overs.

The duo had started to look dangerous rampaging 59 runs in the third Powerplay taking England to a solid 183/3 after Yuvraj's first spell of 9-0-27-2 had pegged them back. With three sixes in the first over of the third Powerplay by Harbhajan, it appeared that a chase was on. But it was a cakewalk after they were gone.

Flintoff was leg-before trying to go for a sweep and Pietersen was bowled through the gap between bat and pad prompting another celebratory run, towards the extra-cover boundary, by Yuvraj.

Friday's ruthlessness was not there in Yuvraj's innings. Instead, with India reeling at 29 for three by the eighth over from Stuart Broad's triple strike, Yuvraj and Gautam Gambhir steadied the ship with a 134-run stand.

With well-placed singles and hard-run for couples, they kept the scoreboard ticking over. And once they got used to the slowness and lack of bounce in the Maharani Usha Raje Cricket Centre wicket, with 15 boundaries and two sixes he raced to a 122-ball 118.

A six over his favourite spot off a freehit, Flintoff had overstepped in the previous ball that was glanced to the fine-leg boundary, gave an indication that Yuvraj was timing the ball well once more. But here he showed the patience to wait for a loose ball to hit.

Gambhir was solid in support and a 70 off 76 balls with six fours and a six over extra-cover off Pietersen set India up for another big total.

But England hit back claiming Gambhir and got Dhoni cheaply.

It was a late flourish of an unbeaten 50 off 29 balls by Yusuf Pathan with two fours and four sixes that took India close to 300.