Posts Tagged ‘Virendar Sehwag’

Yuvraj ton steers Indians to big win

August 16, 2008

Scorecard

Powered by Yuvraj Singh’s brutal century, the Indians cruised to a pre-ODI series 92-run win against a Sri Lankan XI at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo. Yuvraj hit 13 sixes in a 121-ball 172, taking the Indians to 342 for 5, and in reply the opposition – comprising ten internationals – produced a sloppy chase, managing 250 in their 50 overs. It was a good way for the Indians to celebrate the 61st anniversary of their country’s independence.

The last time Yuvraj had scored a hundred in a limited-overs game had been on October 5 2007, against Australia. He dismissed that drought, albeit against a weaker attack, with a two-paced innings that lifted the Indians to a massive total. Yuvraj came in at No. 4 in the 13th over and struggled initially, often going hard at the ball, which resulted in mistimed drives and dragged cuts. An otherwise erratic Dilhara Fernando – his no-ball problem continued and he bowled too short – beat Yuvraj repeatedly off the upright seam, forcing him to hold back on his expansive strokeplay for a while.

But with Suresh Raina in good nick, the singles came easily. Raina broke free from a tense start by backing away and slamming Fernando over cover for four. He also had his share of mistimed shots, but came back well to blast a big six over midwicket off Jehan Mubarak. Like Gautam Gambhir, he too fell while trying an aggressive shot too many, giving Malinga Bandara his first wicket.

In the mean time, Yuvraj had settled in. Crucially, he was confident against spin – he hit Malinda Warnapura for a six in his solitary over – and his flicks across the line were all power and precision. He stood tall to punch the shorter deliveries through the in-field and his bent-knee while driving down the ground was pleasing.

Yuvraj blasted sixes off the first two balls of Thilan Thushara’s comeback over, the 36th, moving past fifty with the first. A whip over mid-on followed, and Yuvraj then trained his ire towards Bandara, striking his fourth six. His century came off 95 balls, after which he decided to have some fun. In 16 balls, he raced past 150, pasting Mubarak for three more sixes and a four in his final over and hitting his ninth and tenth sixes, both effortless swings over long-on, off a beleaguered Chanaka Welegedara.

Yuvraj’s final six was the pick of the lot, a stunning shot over long-off which nearly took out the press cordon. His 13 sixes were the second-most for a 50-overs innings in this decade, after Namibia’s Gary Snyman, who hit 17 during his 196 against UAE last November.

Yuvraj’s partners went unnoticed during his blitz, but they played their part in India putting up a mammoth total. Rohit Sharma scored a 42-ball 24 in an 85-run fourth-wicket stand, while Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s contribution to a 99-run stand, which came in just 6.4 overs, was a mere 16.

In reply, Upul Tharanga gave his team as robust a start as the Indians had got. He threw the bat at anything marginally over-pitched and wide, tucking into some indifferent new-ball bowling from Munaf Patel and RP Singh. While the two bowlers produced three good lbw shouts in consecutive overs they also gave too much width; Tharanga cashed in with an upper cut over third man and into the ivy-covered scorecard.

But the aggression was short-lived. Through a mixture of edges, top-edges and poor footwork it all started to go downhill. Mahela Udawatte had a fortuitous top-edge over point, followed it up with a perfectly-placed cut for four, only to then spoon a catch to mid-off. Warnapura fell to a very good catch from Gambhir at first slip, taken diving to his left. In the next over, after going past an electrifying half-century, Tharanga tried to pull RP but top-edged to the wicketkeeper, leaving the required rate at just under eight. In fewer than five overs the Sri Lankan XI had combusted.

Harbhajan Singh’s introduction tightened the Indians’ grip. His accurate offspin, backed by balanced and energetic field placing, kept runs at a minimum. A trigger-happy Chamara Kapugedera tried to sweep him out of the park but found deep midwicket instead. With the asking rate burgeoning to nearly ten an over, the sprightly Chamara Silva cut and swept Pragyan Ojha’s left-arm spin for boundaries. After 32 overs the Sri Lankan XI needed 191, and Ojha came back well to force a faint nick from Silva to Dhoni for 38. Mubarak remained in the hunt for a place in the national team with 60 from 74 balls but when he departed the side needed 118 from 15 balls, and the result was never in doubt.

India and Sri Lanka meet in Dambulla for the first ODI on August 18.

About Cricket

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi

Sehwag decrypts Mendis

July 31, 2008

After two batting collapses in the first Test it was imperative that India got a solid start. Sehwag provided that by using a simple mantra: if the ball is there to be hit, hit it. Circumstances rarely affect Sehwag and he put the pedal to the metal. A whip off the pads past midwicket got him started, a wild sweep that was unsuccessfully referred didn’t stall him, and when he charged Ajantha Mendis and swung him over cow corner for six, Sehwag was at full throttle.

The stand-out feature was the effortless manner in which Sehwag handled Mendis, who was virtually unplayable in Colombo. The key, in his own simple words, was that here Sehwag “picked Mendis off the track, from where the ball pitched”, something only he and and Sachin Tendulkar have managed to do in this series.

When Mendis tossed the ball up on middle and off, Sehwag smothered the spin, and when the bowler drifted on to middle, he went back and turned it fine. If it spun in sharply, Sehwag adjusted his back leg and brought his bat down quickly to kill the ball. Sehwag also picked the two-fingered googly and moved back to cut or punch through the off-side. He failed to beat cover with the drive once but replayed the shot two balls later with more power and placed it to perfection. Mendis’ first four overs cost 29.

Sehwag accelerated and yet remained in control with Gautam Gambhir, fleet-footed against spin, in the passenger seat. There were cracks at one end of the pitch and Nuwan Kulasekera asked a few questions but Sehwag steered clear of them. He cut Muttiah Muralitharan’s first ball, a doosra from around the stumps, to reach his half-century off 50 balls. His strike rate, like a speedometer, fluctuated from 60 to 98 and beyond. India’s 100 came from 115 balls and Sehwag’s contribution was 59.

Like Sri Lanka did at the SSC, he and Gambhir ran hard, hustling for the second, and constantly looking for scoring opportunities. Sehwag and Aakash Chopra, another Delhi team-mate, did this effectively during the majority of their 19 partnerships, notably in Australia in 2003-04. Some of today’s singles were risky but the intent was obvious and it frustrated Sri Lanka.

In the over before lunch, Sehwag put his arm around Gambhir’s shoulder and had a word. Gambhir reached his fifty off the next ball and a beaming Sehwag rushed to congratulate him. When Sehwag dabbed a single behind point to raise the 150 partnership, he punched gloves with Gambhir as they crossed. How many batsmen can power a side to 150 for 0 at lunch? The camaraderie was plain to see.

After a four-hour rain delay, Mendis tested Gambhir with his variation but at the other end Sehwag disdainfully smashed Vaas over cow corner off his second ball after the resumption. Two balls later he played a booming straight drive to reach his century, which he celebrated with a proud wave of the bat to the dressing room and an embrace from his partner. His 15th hundred took only 87 balls with 15 fours and two sixes but the message was deeper.

At the MCG, in 2003-04, India were 311 for 3 but collapsed for 366 after Sehwag was dismissed for 195 at the end of the first day. In Adelaide earlier this year Sehwag scored 151 out of India’s 269 in the second innings. Today, Sehwag had driven India to a position of strength at 167 for 0 before four wickets fell in 20 balls for 11 runs. As he had done against England in Galle during the winter, Chaminda Vaas, rejuvenated after the rain delay, struck twice in an over. Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were dismissed with the score on 178 and the morning’s work had come undone.

“I didn’t notice any change in my batting after the four-hour break in play,” Sehwag said. “Every batsman has his own mindset with which he plays, but I just played my shots.” Even as stumps approached, Sehwag relied on his base instinct. Mendis went around the stumps and Sehwag used his feet to smash him down the ground and hit two consecutive fours through cover.

Sehwag had fulfilled his responsibility of providing a sound start but the collapse meant that he had to hold the innings together. His unshakeable approach did not change. “I am not satisfied because there’s plenty left in this game,” was Sehwag’s closing statement. “If I can convert this into a double-century or more tomorrow, get India above 400-500, apply pressure on Sri Lanka, then I will be satisfied.”

Crushed in Colombo, India arrived in Galle needing to find a way to bounce back. Only a vivid imagination could have conceived of a fightback without it being led by Sehwag. Like the white breakers of the Indian Ocean, lashing across the rocks in the background of the Galle International Stadium, Sehwag has injected life into a one-sided series.

He has brains alright, and he’s used them rather well.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi