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|Yuvraj silences his critics with a ton|
Friday, March 5 2004 14:08 Hrs (IST)
Put in to bat, North thwarted East's advantage of the coin with purposeful batting from the top order, only to lose five wickets for 19 runs and slide to 304 for seven by close of play.
Wicketkeeper batsman Ajay Ratra was batting on eight after the fall of Gagandeep Singh off the last ball of the day.
There were little signs early in the day of the evening disaster as Aakash Chopra (27) and Gautam Gambhir (46) put on 82 runs for the opening stand before Yuvraj (106) and Dinesh Mongia (84) seemingly put North in the driver's seat.
They were at 285 for two but the tide changed rapidly in the last 10 overs, when Shib Shankar Paul and Debashish Mohanty made effective use of the second new ball.
"All the hard work is gone down the drain," said Yuvraj, after his chanceless innings which lasted 234 minutes, 162 balls and contained 16 fours.
Ironically, the slump began with the stylish left-hander's unnecessary run-out in the 80th over when he was turned back by Mongia and was beaten by Devang Gandhi's throw from the cover region.
That direct hit was very much an act of inspiration for the East skipper, who had watched the two batsmen negate his decision to bowl first on a green top with a 197-run third-wicket partnership.
In the very second over of the second new ball, Mongia mistimed a drive off Mohanty for a simple catch to Laxmi Ratan Shukla to undo his good work in the day.
Mithun Manhas might have been unlucky to be ruled leg before with his front foot well stretched forward but Joginder Sharma was guilty of fishing at an harmless delivery outside the off-stump from Paul.
Mohanty then had Gagandeep caught behind to wrap up a satisfying day for East. Mohanty grabbed two for 44 while Paul was rewarded for bending his back hard with three for 65.
Gandhi might have been deceived by the fair amount of the grass on the Mohali pitch. The story, as it unfolded, was similar to the second Test against New Zealand that ended in a draw at the start of the season.
For, despite the morning chill of the late winter, the ball stopped swinging once it lost its shine. And in the absence of any seam movement off the pitch, the batsmen had few troubles playing the new ball.
Chopra, although a big score had eluded him so far since his return from Australia, was assured in his stout defence while Gambhir picked up the scoring after a tentative start.
But Paul, who had had a successful season in first-class cricket, surprised Chopra with his ability to bring the ball back in.
Gambhir was dismissed in similar fashion when left-arm spinner Sourashish Lahiri caught him on the back foot, as two wickets fell for six runs.
Yuvraj and Mongia, however, took the responsibility of coasting North to safety with their quick scoring. The former played a dominant role while the latter was content to play the accompanying orchestra.
Yuvraj was under pressure to deliver after the selectors asked him to prove his fitness ahead of the Test team selection for the Pakistan tour. He had cited a sore shoulder when skipping the previous match.
"I was told by the selectors to play. The niggle is still there; it is a bit stiff but throwing is not a problem," he said after the match.
His first four was through a trademark square drive off Paul immediately after lunch. He moved from four to 77 while 106 was added to the team score in the post lunch session.
Mongia did well to take the scoring baton when Yuvraj slowed down while in sight of his century. An effortless six on to the sightscreen showed the captain in top form.
Yuvraj then reached his hundred with a typical quickly run three to midwicket off Paul before he gifted his wicket in a moment's madness.
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