Yuvraj Singh was high on octane and low on sympathy for the bowlers here on Saturday night.The southpaw blitzed an astonishing unbeaten 60 (25b, 3x4, 5x6) asIndia, chasing 207 on a belter, levelled the two-match Twenty20 series 1-1 with a six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka. Five deliveries remained in the contest when India was home.
Birthday boy Yuvraj was the man of the moment and the match. Earlier in the day, his left-arm spin had fetched him three wickets at a crucial stage. This is the highest successful chase in Twenty20 cricket by any side.
This was also a night of dropped catches and misfields by both the sides. Yuvraj too benefited.
For most part, Yuvraj’s clean swing of the willow was captivating. A booming six over extra-cover off paceman Nuwan Kulasekara was a telling strike. And then the paceman was struck over the long-on ropes.
Paceman Weeraratne was sent soaring over long-off; he was dumped into the stands in the same over; Yuvraj’s 50 arrived off a mere 20 deliveries.
Despite an Indian stumble towards the end, Yuvraj finished the contest in the final over with a clean strike off Angelo Mathews that cleared long-on.
Earlier, Sehwag delighted. His hand-eye coordination and timing were on view as he knifed Weeraratne twice over covers for the maximum. The crowd roared.
Sehwag was ruthless when he dismissed Mathews over covers. He was making strokes hard on the scale of difficulty appear easy. And Sehwag was drilling holes in the field with the flow and precision of a natural.
He sashayed down the track to strike Kulasekara over his head. Apart from the big hits, he moved across to harness the pace of the ball on the on-side. Sehwag was also fortunate when Sanath Jayasuriya, speeding in from long-on, misjudged a catch early in his innings; Weeraratne was the bowler to suffer.
This was a night when the Sri Lankans appeared to be competing with India in the department of sloppy fielding. Catches were put down and run-out opportunities squandered.
With Gautam Gambhir at his mercy at the striker’s end, Mathews missed the stumps from cover. Gambhir was eventually run out after Sehwag refused a third run; a mis-field at mid-off started the sequence of events.
But then, an opening partnership of 58 in six overs had provided India momentum.
Sehwag continued to plunder runs. By the time he was held in the deep off Lasith Malinga for 64 (36b, 7x4, 3x6), India had the chase under control.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni — put down at square-leg by Kapugedara off Mathews — powered Mathews down the ground for a booming six. The Indian captain, striking the ball with great force was in his element. Mathews was sent soaring again, over wide long-on.
There was going to be only one winner in the contest.
India put down at least five catches and the bowling was often erratic. The side gave away 17 wides.
It started differently though after Sangakkara opted to bat. Ishant bowled with fire and intent with the new ball. Ishant’s first delivery in the contest had the crucial elements — pace, line, a hint of movement and bounce. Dilshan was beaten in the corridor.
The next delivery, a fuller length ball, came in with the angle to knock down Dilshan’s leg stump; a canny shift in length did the trick.
The in-form Sangakkara seized the initiative from the Indians. Once again he picked the length in a jiffy and was wonderfully balanced off either foot as he sliced the field with finesse. The left-hander’s driving between mid-off and covers was impeccable.
The Sri Lankan captain took on Ishant in the fourth over, caressing the ball to the point fence and then easing the paceman through cover.
And he dismissed debutant Sudip Tyagi, cutting him for the maximum and then thumping the paceman past wide mid-off.
Sangakkara was dropped though — the Indian catching continued to disappoint — by Ravindra Jadeja at the mid-wicket fence off Yusuf Pathan on 28.
Jayasuriya inflicted damage from the other end; his reflexes continue to astonish. Jayasuriya’s powerful wrists were in focus as he whipped, slashed, pulled and lofted over the in-field.
The erratic Nehra suffered in particular. Typically, Jayasuriya created room with short-arm jabs.
Jayasuriya (31 off 21 balls) looked good for more when he was prised out on the sweep by Pathan’s off-spin.
Sangakkara continued to torment the bowling. The Sri Lankan captain dumped left-armer Yuvraj Singh over the mid-wicket fence to reach his second half-century of the series. Sangakkara (59, 31b, 8x4, 2x6) fell in the same over, picked up at long-on. By now, Sri Lanka, 121 for three after 11, was racing away.
Yuvraj, slower through the air than he normally is, orchestrated an Indian comeback. After consuming Sangakkara, Yuvraj had the in-form Kapugedara and the big-hitting Jayasinghe (38 off 28 balls) caught in the deep.
Jayasinghe off-drove left-arm spinner Jadeja with flourish for a six but was also fortunate as Nehra and Gambhir spilled catches off his bat in the outfield; Yusuf suffered on both occasions. And the dangerous Mathews was grassed early on by Dinesh Karthik at deep mid-wicket off Ishant. Mathews flicked Ishant and pulled Nehra for the maximum as Sri Lanka crossed the 200-run mark.