Chennai, Sep 11: It was a tense finish here at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Tuesday night. And New Zealand denied Yuvraj Singh a winning comeback as they clinched a nail-biting one-run win over India in the Twenty20 International. Chasing 168, India were so near yet so far finishing at 166/4 in 20 overs.
It was all set up for Yuvraj to cap off a fairytale return to cricket. But Kiwi bowlers had other plans. Yuvraj, looking in fine touch in his comeback to international cricket for the first time in nine months, was at the crease till the last over. But he was bowled by a James Franklin slower ball with two balls remaining in the game. Rohit Sharma, on strike to get six off two balls, could manage only four. Indian captain MS Dhoni, known as the game's best finisher, was left to watch from the other end.
For most part of the chase, India were on target. First, it was Virat Kohli who hit his T20I best of 70. And later Yuvraj took charge with a 34. The left-hander moved well at the crease and hit delightful strokes, including two sixes and a four in his 26-ball 34. The hosts were cruising towards a winning finish but faltered in the end.
Yuvraj was dropped on nine and it resulted in a nasty collision between wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum and Kyle Mills. Both attempted to take the catch and collided. Mills was off the field for treatment and did not return to complete his quota of overs.
India needed 39 from the final 30 balls. In a T20 scenario, this should have been easy considering India had seven wickets in hand. But New Zealand rallied well. And the pitch slowed down towards the end making life difficult for Indian batsmen. Franklin and Jacob Oram were excellent in taking the pace off the ball. With 13 need off the final six balls, Yuvraj's dismissal on the fourth ball turned the match firmly in the visitors' favour.
McCullum won both Man-of-the-match and Man-of-the-series awards. With this win, New Zealand took the two-match series 1-0. The first game in Visakhapatnam was washed out without a ball bowled.
New Zealand Innings Report
Brendon McCullum's 55-ball 91 helped New Zealand recover from 2/2 and post 167/5 in 20 overs.
Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan rocked the Kiwi innings early as they dismissed opener Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill in quick succession. But after that McCullum took charge as he punished Indian bowlers. He used his feet well to reach his half century off 32 balls. When in sight of his second T20I hundred, he was removed by Irfan. The left-handed paceman Irfan ended with figures of 3/31. McCullum, batting at number three, hit 11 fours and three sixes.
Yuvraj Singh got an opportunity to bowl and had two overs. He conceded 14 runs but failed to take a wicket. However, he pouched an easy catch to dismiss James Franklin.
Yuvraj Singh returned to Indian team and captain MS Dhoni won the toss and decided to field first in the second and final Twenty20 International.
Virender Sehwag is not fit, said Dhoni. And there is no place for Harbhajan Singh. Lakshmipathy Balaji has made a comeback after a gap of more than three years. His last game (ODI) for India was in February 2009 against Sri Lanka. This is Balaji's T20I debut and that too on his home ground.
First the good news. There is no rain around at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, which will host its first ever Twenty20 International game. Yuvraj Singh's wait will be over in another few minutes as India and New Zealand will face off in the second and final Twenty20 International here on Tuesday.
Yuvraj and his fans were disappointed on Saturday as rain played spoilsport in Visakhapatnam. There was no play possible and the match was abandoned on September 8.
The left-handed Yuvraj has won his battle against cancer and is all set to wield his willow and bowl few overs for India.
Yuvraj (@YUVSTRONG12) tweeted earlier in the day: "Getting very restless! Just few more hours to go hope it doesn't rain in the evening!"
Yuvraj last played for India in November 2011. It was in a Test against West Indies at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
India: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Manoj Tiwary.
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (captain), Brendon McCullum (wicketkeeper), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Rob Nicol, Daniel Vettori, Adam Milne, Ronnie Hira, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram.
Umpires: Vineet Kulkarni and S Ravi (both India)
Third umpire: Sudhir Asnani (India)
Match referee: Chris Broad (England)