With fifty & five, Singh is on a song
In football terms, the Ireland match was like taking a penalty kick for India. No bouquets for converting, but brickbats could have been expected in case they failed. India somehow managed to get the ball past the goalline, but only after the keeper had got a hand to a weak kick.They should take it still. It's a long tournament, where narrow victories are welcome as long as they keep fetching them points. A commanding batting performance which produced 338 runs against England exactly a week ago had ended in a tie. So a scrappy yet successful chase of a modest 207 was acceptable.
However, there is no denying that there were more nervy moments than periods of comfort at the stadium during the Indian innings. The Indian beauties in the enclosure adjacent to the media box were kept quiet by the wives and girlfriends of the Irish players, who erupted in joy each time an Indian wicket fell. And India did lose a few at crucial moments.
Yusuf breaks free
It wasn't until the arrival of Yusuf Pathan that the local fans started sporting happy smiles, breaking into a jig or two, as the Baroda batsman started sending the ball deep into the stands. The first five balls he faced produced 16 runs, and in a matter of a few minutes, what had been a painstaking chase turned into a cruise.
The Indians had even been contemplating bringing in Suresh Raina in the 11 in place of Pathan for some of the group games. But Pathan has perhaps put an end to that talk with characteristically monstrous blows. The Irish bowlers had kept the Indian batsmen on a leash until then.
Known for his aggressive batting, Yuvraj Singh anchored the chase with an uncharacteristic display of patience and maturity. The pitch was a lot more sluggish than it was in the last two matches and Ireland overcame the lack of penetration in their bowling by sticking to a steady line, backed by brilliant fielding inside the circle.
Curbing his natural instinct, Yuvraj stood tall in the middle and soaked in the pressure. Once he got used to the slow pitch, he was happy to wait, knowing the target would be achieved if he stayed there.
Yuvraj, the man-of-the-match, had played a big role in restricting Ireland. Not that the visitors ever looked like posting a big score apart from the third-wicket partnership, but they were proceding towards something decent when William Poreterfield, who top-scored as opener, and Niall O'Brien were in the middle.
Yuvraj ended their resistance and finished with a five-wicket haul. That included taking a return catch to dismiss Kevin O'Brien, who had become the face of this tournament after he lashed the fastest hundred in the tournament history to clinch victory against England.