Blistering Yuvraj cuts Pakistan attack to size

Published: Saturday, November 13, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Kolkata:Yuvraj Singh slammed a blistering 78 to propel India to a huge 292 for six in the platinumjubilee One-day International cricket match against archrivals Pakistan here today.

Yuvraj set the packed Eden Gardens ablaze with his fireworks as he not only cracked his 16th half-century in One-day Internationals but also put the hosts in a seemingly comfortable position.

The hard-hitting left-hander provided the thrust to the innings in the slog overs as he unleashed a flurry of boundaries to leave the visitors in a daze after captain Sourav Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat first.

Virender Sehwag (53), Ganguly (48) and V V S Laxman (43) were the other notable contributors as the home team left Pakistan a stiff asking rate of 5.86 to win the match,organised as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Yuvraj was in devastating form as he blasted ten boundaries and two sixes before being out in the penultimate ball of the innings giving the vociferous home crowd a reason to extend their 'Diwali' celebrations.

Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar provided a brisk start to the Indian innings with some delectable shots much to the delight of a capacity crowd at the Eden Gardens.

The dashing Sehwag slammed the first boundary of the innings hitting tearaway fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar to the point boundary while Tendulkar also looked in fine nick as heclobbered two boundaries.

The opening pair put on 29 runs for the first wicket before Tendulkar paid the price for trying to steal a cheeky run.

The star batsman went for a suicidal run after Sehwag had played the ball close to the stumps and Younis Khan's direct hit left Tendulkar a few inches short of the crease.

The stylish VVS Laxman, who was promoted to the number three slot, seemed to be in good touch as he exhibited his trademark wristy shots to keep the scoreboard moving at abrisk pace.

Laxman picked up paceman Rana Naved-ul-Hasan for special treatment as he spanked him for two consecutive boundaries in his fifth over and then hit him for two more boundaries in row in his subsequent over.

Both Sehwag and Laxman seemed to be in no trouble at all as they collected the runs at will with the hosts maintaining a run rate of over five during the first 20 overs.

The Indians seemed to be heading for a big total as the duo stitched 82 runs for the second wicket before spinner Shahid Afridi provided the vital breakthrough by getting ridof Laxman.

Laxman, who struggled to find any form during the recent Test series against Australia till the last match in Mumbai, went for a forward defensive shot but only succeeded in edgingthe ball to Kamran Akmal behind the stumps.

The dismissal of Laxman seemed to have no impact on Sehwag as he brought about his 15th half century in One-day International in style by lifting spinner Shoaib Malik for a huge six over long-on.

But the euphoria was short-lived as he perished soon after reaching the half-century mark, completely mistiming his sweep to see his stumps being dislodged with Afridi doing thedamage. Sehwag's 65-ball 53 contained six boundaries and two sixes.

The run rate dropped down a bit after Sehwag returned to the pavilion as captain Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid took time to come to terms with the Eden track with some ballskeeping a trifle low.

Both Ganguly and Dravid were quite content in keeping the scoreboard ticking with gentle nudges and pushes and just when it seemed that the duo would step on the accelerator, theKarnataka batsman fell to an uncharacteristic stroke.

Dravid tried to pull paceman Abdul Razzaq over the square-leg boundary but only succeeded in offering a catch to Afridi about ten yards inside the fence.

With the overs running out, Ganguly also opened up to play some glorious shots taking a cue from the rampaging Yuvraj Singh at the other end.

The Indian captain fell two runs short of the half-century mark as he top-edged Akhtar and spooned a simple catch to wicketkeeper Akmal. Ganguly hit two sixes and a four during his 70-ball effort.

Yuvraj, trying to put as many runs on the board in the last over, lost his wicket in the penultimate ball of the innings as he was caught by Younis Khan with Hasan being the wicket-taker.

Afridi was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers with figures of 10-0-29-2.

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