Shane Warne, the great leg-spinner, labelled Yusuf Pathan's blistering century for the Rajasthan Royals against the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL) yesterday as "probably the best innings I've ever seen" . The India right-hander smashed nine fours and six sixes in his 37-ball hundred, the second fastest in Twenty20 history.
Andrew Symonds, a former Australia teammate of Warne, holds the record for his 34-ball assualt in 2004 but the Royals captain was left awestruck as Yusuf ruthlessly took apart the Mumbai bowling attack in the four-run defeat at the Brabourne Stadium. "I've played this game for 20-odd years, I've seen Sachin Tendulkar smash bowlers all around the park plenty of times and I've seen some wonderful players, but this is probably the best innings I've ever seen," said Warne.
"Pure, clean striking in a game situation, 100 off only 37 balls, I don't think I've seen a better innings in 21 years of cricket. So well done to Yusuf." The Royals won the first IPL in 2008 despite assembling their squad on a relative shoestring when compared to the likes of the big-spending Mumbai side, and Kolkata Knight Riders. Arguably their shrewdest piece of business was the acquisition of Yusuf, the pyrotechnic all-rounder, at a bargain value of US$475,000 (Dh1.7m).
He looked a snip at twice the price last night. This knock, allied to his record-breaking double-century in the recent Duleep Trophy final, means the Royals now possess arguably the hottest property in the game.However, despite his heroics, the Royals still fell four runs short, as Lasith Malinga closed out the win for Mumbai, whose latest big-money purchase, Kieron Pollard, is yet to join up with the side, as he plays out a low-key series against Zimbabwe with the West Indies.
The Royals were set 213 to win and their cause looked lost when they slumped to 66 for four. Yusuf came to the crease with the Jaipur-based franchise needing an improbable 143 runs off 57 balls. He scored 54 off the next 11 balls he faced, 26 other deliveries yielded him 46, and when he was finally dismissed - run out at the non-striker's end - he left Rajasthan needing 40 off 17 deliveries. Paras Dogra whittled the equation down to six off the last ball but the task proved beyond Dimitri Mascarenhas, the England all-rounder.
"I'm proud of the way we fought," added Warne. "They probably got 20 runs too many. I think we bowled two many wides and we dropped a couple of crucial catches. But this is the first game, the guys are just trying to find their feet and some of them haven't played any cricket in a long while. But we showed character and we showed fight and that holds us in good stead for the rest of the tournament."
Tendulkar, the Mumbai captain, was also full of praise for Yusuf's knock. "It was a special innings, but I can't say it was a treat to watch because we were at the receiving end," he said. "When someone bats like this, the only thing you can do is to try to block him somewhere. firstname.lastname@example.org
Mumbai Indians: Sanath Jayasuriya lbw b Uniyal 23 Sachin Tendulkar lbw b Mascarenhas 17 Aditya Tare c Warne b Mascarenhas 23 Saurabh Tiwary c Ojha b Tait 53 Ambati Rayudu c Dogra b Uniyal 55 R Sathish run out (Ojha) 6 Harbhajan Singh retired hurt 8 Ryan McLaren not out 11 Zaheer Khan not out 0 Extras: (lb 3, w 13) 16 Total: (for six wickets in 20 overs) 212 Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-69, 3-70, 4-180, 5-191, 6-192, 6-211 Bowling: Dimitri Mascarenhas 4 0 34 2 Shaun Tait 4 0 46 1 (6w) Kamran Khan 1 0 10 0 Amit Uniyal 4 0 41 2 (2w) Shane Warne 3 0 29 0 (1w) Abhishek Jhunjhunwala 2 0 27 0 Yusuf Pathan 2 0 22 0 Rajasthan Royals: Graeme Smith c & b Sathish 26 Swapnil Asnodkar run out (Sathish) 0 Naman Ojha c Khan b Murtaza 12 Abhishek Jhunjhunwala b Malinga 14 Yusuf Pathan run out (Sathish) 100 Paras Dogra run out (Malinga) 41 Dimitri Mascarenhas not out 9 Amit Uniyal b Malinga 0 Shane Warne not out 1 Extras: (5w) 5 Total: (for seven wickets in 20 overs) 208 Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-38, 3-40, 4-66, 5-173, 6-201, 7-201 Bowling: Zaheer Khan 4 0 27 0 Ryan McLaren 4 0 43 0 Lasith Malinga 4 0 22 2 Ali Murtaza 4 0 46 1 R Sathish 3 0 51 1 Sanath Jayasuriya 1 0 19 0