Yuvraj held centre-stage with a match-winning unbeaten 50 in a pressure situation after scalping five with his much improved left-arm spin earlier in the day.

He eased into strokes in front of the wicket with the flow of a natural. Yuvraj Singh also displayed a heart that complemented his large frame.

Indeed, Yuvraj held centre-stage with a match-winning unbeaten 50 in a pressure situation after scalping five with his much-improved left-arm spin. Focussed and committed, he had also banished self-doubts, the biggest scourge of them all.

At the Chinnaswamy Stadium, here, on Sunday, Yuvraj lived a World Cup dream in the cauldron as India defeated a spirited Ireland by five wickets in a hard fought Group `B' match.

He embraced history by becoming the first cricketer to come up with a five-wicket haul and score a half-century in the same match of a World Cup. Man of the Match, Yuvraj certainly was.

The pitch played differently from the ones for the earlier games here and the pursuit of 208 was a tricky one. The surface was dual paced – a few deliveries stopped before meeting the bat while some others hurried after pitching. Batting demanded application.

Ireland fought hard. The bowling was accurate and the fielding sharp. Every run had to be earned.

Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni coped well with a stressful situation. The left-right duo batted straight, milking the bowling before launching into the odd big blow.

However, Ireland continued to chip away. Dhoni (34) was trapped leg-before by a delivery that held its line from left-arm spinner George Dockrell.

Then, Yusuf Pathan launched into Dockrell with two huge sixes between the straight-field and long-on. Yusuf (30 not out) settled the issue with another stroke for the maximum over long-on off off-spinner Paul Stirling.

The battle-scarred Trent Johnston struck at the start. Virender Sehwag's leading edge was plucked by the bowler with glee and the left-handed Gautam Gambhir was held brilliantly the at short fine-leg by Alex Cusack when he attempted to turn a length delivery.

Ireland was full of beans and the pressure was on India. Maestro Sachin Tendulkar and a determined Virat Kohli strung together a partnership.

Tendulkar cover-drove Dockrell gloriously while Kohli was feisty with his horizontal bat shots.

India had progressed to 87 after 20 overs when Tendulkar missed a sweep off Dockrell. Soon Kohli was walking back after a terrible mix-up following a Yuvraj stroke square off the wicket. Then, Dhoni and Yuvraj joined forces.

This, indeed, was a contest where Yuvraj took flight. Yuvraj's bowling has evolved. Essentially a round-arm bowler when he began, he brings more body into his action these days. Consequently, there is more work on the ball.

And his stump-to-stump line can force batsmen to commit mistakes in the game's abbreviated form.

Yuvraj often delivers from wide of the crease, mixing the deliveries sliding into the batsmen with the ones straightening or spinning just a tad away. The Irish batsmen were unable to pick him.

And Yuvraj varied his pace, even floating a few deliveries. Dangerman Kevin O' Brien perished when he misjudged the length of a Yuvraj delivery to knock back a return catch.

And Zaheer Khan was spot on after Dhoni elected to field. The crafty left-arm paceman moved the ball away from the left-handed William Porterfield, a delivery requiring precision and control.

In fact, Porterfield could have been prised out in the first over had Yusuf Pathan held the ball on second attempt after leaping to his left to palm a rapidly travelling edge.

Zaheer switched his line to the right-hander admirably and castled opener Stirling with the one that nipped back. The paceman was on song.

The left-armer harried the left-handed Ed Joyce. The southpaw, expecting the ball to seam away, ended up playing down the wrong line. The delivery darted in to kiss the inside edge for Dhoni to hold a smart catch.

Dhoni displayed more imagination in managing the overs. Yusuf was introduced in the fourth over to send down his off-spin. Then Harbhajan Singh replaced Pathan in the eighth over.

And once Zaheer finished a searing first spell (5-1-15-2) Munaf replaced him from the far end ensuring India maintained a mix of pace and spin.

Despite the Indian ploy, Ireland scripted a recovery from nine for two. The left-handed pair of Porterfield and Niall O' Brien displayed resolve, collecting singles and twos while putting away deliveries lacking in length.

Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, struggling for the right line while bowling at the left-handed pair, was taken to the cleaners. Perhaps, Chawla attempted too many variations without quite settling into a rhythm. Porterfield grew in confidence while Niall displayed quick hands like most 'keepers do. Niall used the depth of the crease capably to pick runs behind the wicket.

The duo had added 113 runs for the third wicket when a smart piece of fielding by Kohli at cover – he swooped on the ball before firing in a throw to Dhoni – caught Niall short of the crease.

Skipper Porterfield (75), eventually, succumbed to a delivery lacking in length from Yuvraj; it was a soft dismissal.

Ireland, gradually, lost its way. The Indian fielding was marginally better and Dhoni did hold a fine catch flinging himself to his right when Zaheer forced an edge from Dockrell.


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