SPORT

Yuvraj guides India to series victory

OMINOUS MOOD: Yuvraj Singh was at his belligerent best against Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI on Saturday. Photo: K. R. Deepak  

Vijay Parthasarathy

Quick fifty by Uthappa Sourav Ganguly is Man-of-the-Series

Visakhapatnam: Of the many fine match-winning knocks that Yuvraj Singh has played, none was as timely as the one on Saturday.

Any concerns regarding his form and fitness ahead of next month's World Cup detonated in emphatic fashion as the left-hander caned Sri Lanka for 95 during the final one-dayer. India beat its opponent by seven wickets, thus winning the Hero Honda Cup 2-1 after the first of the four-match series was abandoned owing to rain.

Unbroken stand

Yuvraj was involved in an unbroken stand of 145 with Sourav Ganguly for the fourth wicket, and singlehandedly reduced Chamara Silva's run-a-ball 107 to a statistical irrelevancy. He picked up speed on a wicket of even bounce eminently suited to strokeplay. Particularly savage towards the seamers, he flicked Fernando over square-leg for a six and reached 50 with a cover drive that was at once stylish and stately. The winning runs were not scored, they were plundered. Yuvraj took 22 from Maharoof's and the game's final over.

His innings followed a most satisfying display by the Indian top order. For the most part of the innings India advanced at over six an over; indeed it appeared in desperate pursuit of a far more imposing figure than 260.

Uthappa spanked another quick fifty, the highlights of which were improved upper body flexibility and improvement in his backfoot play.

Man-of-the-Series Sourav Ganguly, dizzy from lack of sleep and cramping after a sustained bowling spell, summoned the energy for three sixes, including a pull over midwicket.

Even the much-maligned Sehwag made 46 before he was caught millimetres short of the bowler's crease, clueless as a beached whale, by a throw from the alert wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara. His horror run has forced Sehwag to examine his shot selection, and here he was by his standards remarkably circumspect.

First century

Earlier Sri Lanka's innings was glued together by Chamara Silva. This was the 27-year-old's first century in only his 14th game. The islanders managed to salvage a tenuous position and post 259 for seven not sufficient in itself to guarantee victory, nevertheless 50 more than they might have dared hope for. The last 10 overs produced 91 runs, the last five 54.

As has happened throughout this series, the Lankan innings was punctuated by more than one splutter in momentum. Wet outfield conditions delayed the start by an hour and reduced this to a 47-overs-a-side game. Poor footwork and ambitious shotmaking compromised the top order yet again, after Dravid had won the toss and backed his bowlers to exploit favourable conditions.

From 42 for no loss Sri Lanka was reduced to 56 for four; but three successive partnerships, capitalising on some wayward bowling mainly by Harbhajan Singh, staved off the Indians.

Revival

The revival commenced through a 68-run partnership between Silva, who made two centuries for Sri Lanka `A' in Duleep Trophy matches last season, and Tillakaratne Dilshan. Harbhajan's third over went for 17, as Silva swept him behind square and then stepped out and lofted him for a six and a four.

Ganguly plugged the scoring at one end with his niggardly line and length and removed Dilshan, but Russel Arnold came in and started pushing singles and twos.

Silva, by now sweeping the slow bowlers assuredly and flicking full tosses from Agarkar with disdain, shared an exhilarating partnership of 64 with the big-hitting Maharoof. A knock such as this usually terminates in the 60s but Silva, entirely to his credit, converted this into an unbeaten century.

SCOREBOARD

Sri Lanka: M. Atapattu b Sreesanth 19, S. Jayasuriya c Ganguly b Agarkar 22, M. Jayawardene c Uthappa b Agarkar 7, K. Sangakkara c Uthappa b Zaheer 1, C. Silva (not out) 107, T. Dilshan c Uthappa b Ganguly 28, R. Arnold c Sreesanth b Sehwag 22, F. Maharoof c Karthik b Zaheer 28, M. Bandara (not out) 5; Extras (b-1, lb-2, nb-3, w-14): 20; Total (for seven wkts. in 47 overs): 259.

PP 1: 1-10, PP 2: 11-15, PP 3: 16-19.

Fall of wickets: 1-42, 2-50, 3-52, 4-56, 5-124, 6-165, 7-229. India bowling: Zaheer 10-2-54-2, Agarkar 10-1-52-2, Sreesanth 8-1-46-1, Harbhajan 9-0-48-0, Ganguly 6-0-29-1, Sehwag 4-0-27-1.

India: V. Sehwag (run out) 46, S. Ganguly (not out) 58, R. Uthappa c Jayasuriya b Maharoof 52, D. Karthik c & b Fernando 1, Yuvraj (not out) 95; Extras (lb-2, nb-1, w-8): 11; Total (for three wkts. in 41 overs): 263.

PP 1: 1-10, PP 2: 11-15, PP 3: 16-19.

Fall of wickets: 1-92, 2-106, 3-118.

Sri Lanka bowling: Maharoof 6-0-60-1, Malinga 9-1-54-0, Fernando 9-1-56-1, Bandara 4-0-37-0, Dilshan 9-0-34-0, Jayasuriya 2-0-10-0, Arnold 2-0-10-0.