Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ind vs Ned: Yuvraj helps India beat Netherlands by 5 wickets

NEW DELHI: As twilight merged into night at Ferozeshah Kotla, the din became louder. The party was on and the raucous crowd was having its fill asSachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag tore into the modest Netherlands attack. Just 190 needed to wrap this one up against the minnows, it was celebration time. Suddenly, the grand march towards victory became a painful lurch towards the post as profligate Indian batsmen gave new sheen to the expression, "cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties." 

Sehwag, Tendulkar and Pathan sacrificed their wickets while trying to finish the game before the waiters stopped serving evening tea in the dressing room. Virat Kohli's expansive drive only helped the ball hit the off-stump and Gautam Gambhir was unlucky to see his leg-stump clipped around his legs. 

From 69 without loss to 99 for four and then 139 for five was almost surreal. The tension in the air was palpable, just as it was in the last game against Ireland. The old firm of Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni then took charge and sanity was restored.India won the World Cup Group B game on Wednesday by five wickets with more than 13 overs remaining, also making to the quarterfinals in the process. But with tougher tests coming up, doubters would still be shouting from the roof tops, such was the display overall. 

Yuvraj turned in another remarkably saviour-like, man-of-the-match performance to soothe nerves and see India home. He was nagging with ball (9-1-43-2) and resolute with the bat (51 not out, 73 balls, 7x4). One was reminded of what Dhoni said on Tuesday in the pre-match press meet: "I'm a great fan of Yuvraj Singh." 

In the first half of the day, the script went the way India's spin doctors would have wanted it to. A web of spin on a low, slow and turning Kotla track, not your 'ideal' One-day wicket by any means, suffocated the life out of Dutch batsmen. The visitors huffed and puffed their way to 189 all out in 46.4 overs after winning the toss and batting first. 

That spin would be the order of the day was established quite early when Pathan replaced Ashish Nehra after the comeback man had bowled just one over of his medium pace. Star off-spinnerHarbhajan Singh was in operation by the seventh over and soon, Piyush Chawla too was creating confusion in the Dutch ranks with his assortment of leg-spinners, googlies and flippers. 

All this while, Yuvraj, fresh from a five-wicket haul in the last game against Ireland, was rubbing his hands in anticipation. It was not long before he also got his chance to make hay in the sun, which he did immediately by picking up a wicket in his first over. 

The medium-pacers, especially Zaheer Khan, also benefited from the pressure applied by the spinners. Zaheer picked up three in his second spell to help India wrap up the innings in a hurry. The Netherlands essay, which had a promising start, began misfiring as soon as the tweakers came on. The Dutch batsmen did not have the wherewithal to counter quality spin in these conditions. Thus, the 56-run opening stand proved a flash in the pan as wickets fell at regular intervals. 

It was left to skipper Peter Borren to launch a late riposte with a breezy 38 off 36 balls. He crashed Yuvraj for two fours in the 42nd over of the innings and then whack two sixes off Chawla in the 43rd to bring some substance to the total. 

Chawla finally found a track where he could turn the ball and hoodwink the batters. Of course, the Dutch could not exert too much pressure on him but his confidence would have got a fillip nonetheless. He could even turn his googlies which normally do not turn much. 

A wickets, though, eluded Harbhajan once again, despite the sardar bowling his full quota. In the field, the hosts looked flat. They might be saving the fire for the bigger tests. But it's fielding which exhibits the collective attitude of a group. And since skipper Dhoni has himself thrown the towel — he said India's fielding can't improve — one cannot hope for anything better. Besides a lack of quality effort from many in the field, two return catches were fluffed, one each by Chawla and Yuvraj, though both were tough ones.

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