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Yuvraj steers India to Series victory

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Batting conditions at the Civil Service Club Ground at Stormont were very difficult with the ball always moving around. Rahul Dravid and India were the lucky side getting the coin to roll in their favour which allowed them to put the South Africans to bat first on a damp track. The Proteas somehow managed to get a good target of 148 in 31 overs for India. The chasing side got themselves in trouble losing early wickets but a sensible partnership between Dravid and Yuvraj was enough to see them home by six wickets with four deliveries to spare.

The start of the match was delayed by more than five hours because of rain and a wet outfield. The match was still a 31-overs affair which wasn’t all that short. India got Gautam Gambhir and Ajit Agarkar in for Ramesh Powar and Ishant Sharma. The South Africans had got Justin Kemp and Dale Steyn back in the side for Charl Langeveldt and Thandi Tshabalala. The Proteas were off to a disastrous start with both Zaheer and Agarkar using the seam perfectly and going past the outside edge often. Agarkar was even more tough to handle as he was also getting the ball to swing in the air. His first wicket had come in his fifth delivery itself with Morne van Wyk caught napping to a late inswinger that caught him in the crease. The four deliveries prior to this Agarkar had bowled outswingers to AB de Villiers, so it was a surprise delivery to get Morne van Wyk, the man in good form. In his next over, Ajit Agarkar came up with a jaffa that angled in and then left Kallis squared up in his backfoot defence to kiss the offstump. It was a second duck in a row for Kallis!

SA should have been three down but a bizarre umpiring moment saved them. Facing Zaheer, AB de Villiers got a leading edge that was cleanly caught by Sachin Tendulkar at first slip near his waist. The Indians were celebrating obviously but AB de Villiers just stood his ground and umpire Aleem Dar was in some other world saying not out! That was certainly one of the worst ever umpiring decisions in the history, infact there was no need for the umpire to come into picture as it was so straightforward! If that was the only drama, then you are wrong, the next ball saw Gautam Gambhir at square leg go blind! An uppish flick shot from the same batsman went straight into his hands but popped out! The next delivery was insult to injury as AB de Villiers whacked Zaheer for a boundary past mid on. Fortunately, AB de Villiers didn’t kick onto make a big score as he was caught bat pad by Dhoni who was standing upto the stumps to the second change bowler Sourav Ganguly. Before that both RP Singh and Sourav Ganguly had to bowl a combined three overs during the powerplay. Both kept their cool to give nothing away. The wicket of AB de Villiers brought JP Duminy in and the left hander got a skidding inswinger from Sourav first up which trapped in front leaving Dada on a hat-trick which didn’t come through though. But at 28 for 4 in 12.3 overs. the South Africans were in tatters.

There wasn’t much time left in the SA innings and at the same time they didn’t have many wickets left. But they believed in their abilities, they knew that they could break the shackles once the spinners were employed. That was the plan for Herschelle Gibbs and Justin Kemp which was executed to perfection. The right handers smacked 45 out of the five overs that Piyush Chawla and Yuvraj Singh had bowled. That was enough for SA to come back into the match and put up a good total of 148 in the allotted 31 overs. However the total looks ugly because of seven wickets going down. Herschelle Gibbs got 56 from 67 with 3 fours and 2 sixes while Justin Kemp got 61 from 61 with 5 fours and 2 sixes. Among the bowlers, Ajit Agarkar had the best figures with 2 for 21 in 6 overs.

It was never going to be easy for the Indian batsmen to chase this score but they had to just fight it out for 31 overs only. Tendulkar started with a nice flick for a boundary off Steyn in the first over, things looked good, but in the next over poked at a delivery that held its line from Ntini. Gambhir joined Ganguly and sort of looked as if he was up to the challenge by getting a square drive for a boundary. However, it was the red hot pace of Dale Steyn that got the better of him in an attempted pull shot that forcefully went back onto his stumps. Steyn’s fastest delivery in this spell was as quick as 149.3 kmph! After a little while even Ganguly went back to the hut, forced to edge a great delivery from Andre Nel from round the sticks. Ganguly made 18 from 25 with 3 fours leaving India at 38 for 3 in 8.5 overs.

Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh then had the responsibility to see India to the 149 mark. Dravid started very poorly, struggling to get away from the extra bounce off Ntini. But it was just a matter of seeing off Ntini who at the maximum had only 7 overs to bowl in the match. And it worked out well, once Ntini and Steyn were gone, came the other pacers who couldn’t keep the pressure on the two batsmen. Rahul Dravid got going and Yuvraj at the other end was trying his best to leave as many as possible wicket taking deliveries that were slanting across his stumps. He had his share of luck when he was dropped by Hall at wide slip and also when an outside edge flew between Boucher and the wide slip. The Indians had to just keep their cool as the sun came out blazing to dry out the moisture in the track. One of the overs from Kallis saw Rahul Dravid taking him for three fours which got the equation under India’s control. India did lose Rahul Dravid to give SA some hope with 41 to win from 39 balls. Dravid fell victim to casual running, not bothering to drag his bat into the crease at the non striker’s end to be beaten by a superb direct throw from Boucher.

The match was sealed by Yuvraj in the company of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who took his revenge over Makhaya Ntini. Yuvraj got the winning runs with a boundary to take his score to 59 from 82 with six fours and a six straight down the ground. Dhoni helped his batting average to improve with an unbeaten 14 from 11 which had two fours. Ntini and Nel bowled very well but they could get just the one wicket each which made the difference. Kallis was helpful for the Indians by leaking 36 runs in his 4 overs. The Man of the Match was given to Yuvraj Singh and the Player of the Series to Sachin Tendulkar who requested that the award to be shared by Yuvraj. Tendulkar’s reason was that without Yuvraj’s 49 not out in the second game, India wouldn’t have held the trophy. Tendulkar really got overwhelmed by the back to back match winning knocks from Yuvi. This series win is the first time ever for India outside the sub continent against South Africa. Now India quickly travel across to Scotland to take on arch rivals Pakistan after a day’s break.

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