x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

High five for Yuvraj as India see through Ireland threat in World Cup

The part-time spinner's maiden five-wicket haul restricts Ireland to 207 and then hits an unbeaten half century.

Yuvraj Singh celebrates the dismissal of Alex Cusack, his fifth wicket of the match. Vivek Prakash / Reuters
Yuvraj Singh celebrates the dismissal of Alex Cusack, his fifth wicket of the match. Vivek Prakash / Reuters

BANGALORE, INDIA // Until yesterday, he was in danger of becoming the Indian team’s Invisible Man.

There has been so much attention paid to others in recent times that it has been easy to forget Yuvraj Singh averages nearly 37 after a decade-long career and that his left-arm spin has brought him nearly 100 wickets.

Five of them came yesterday in a decisive mid-innings spell that set up India for an ultimately comfortable five-wicket win over Ireland that puts them top of Group B at the World Cup.

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Points table

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After two successive run-fests, the curator had come up with a surface that was much more amenable to spin. But with Piyush Chawla getting quite a pasting and Harbhajan Singh worrying wicketless, it needed Yuvraj to make short work of the middle and lower order.

The key wickets did not come off especially good deliveries. Kevin O’Brien had savaged England’s finest on his way to 113 on Wednesday night, but made just nine here before smashing one straight back at him.

A quarter of an hour later, William Porterfield, who had batted quite beautifully for his 75, made room and stroked one to Harbhajan at cover.

Just as damaging to Irish hopes of a big total was the arm of Virat Kohli, after he swooped down at cover and threw to MS Dhoni for a run out to end the 113-run partnership between Porterfield and Niall O’Brien that had resuscitated the innings after a dismal start.

Zaheer Khan was outstanding, with the batsmen not knowing which way the ball would move, but support was once again thin until Yuvraj stepped in.

The bowling of Yusuf Pathan and Harbhajan did not faze O’Brien and Porterfield even on a responsive pitch, while Chawla’s line was awry from the start.

With games against South Africa and the West Indies to follow what should be a straightforward one against the Netherlands in Delhi on Wednesday, Dhoni may well need to rethink his team composition.

For once, all the front-line batsmen were needed as Ireland, and George Dockrell in particular, defended a low total with real tenacity. Porterfield will also reflect on the injury woes that deprived him of Andre Botha – the star of the show against Pakistan in 2007 who injured his groin in the warm-up against England – and Trent Johnston, who limped off with a jarred knee after a superb five-over spell.

Johnston is now 36 and most recognised for his funky-chicken celebrations on taking a wicket. That was in evidence twice early on as Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir both played poor shots to leave India precariously placed at 24 for two.

Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli were watchful while adding 63, and the capacity crowd soon realised that this would be no stroll in the park. Dockrell was getting bite and turn, and produced two wonderful deliveries to dismiss Tendulkar and Dhoni.

When Kohli was run out to leave India 100 for four, there was still a glimmer of hope. But with Johnston gone for a scan, Dockrell was the only wicket-taking threat.

Through it all, Yuvraj stood his ground to make an unbeaten 50, finding the gaps and only rarely showing the shot-making ability that makes him so exciting to watch. It was scratchy rather than fluent, but for a man who has not been anywhere near his best in the past 12 months, just staying to the end was the greatest satisfaction.

“Ireland played well to put us under pressure,” he said afterwards. “Getting a five-for gives you a lot of confidence when you come out to bat. I think they fielded exceptionally. We had to play really well.”

Ireland, once again the Cinderella story of the competition, now head to Mohali to face the West Indies. “An extra 40 runs would have been interesting,” Porterfield said. “We are a fighting side. There are three games left, there’s no reason we can’t beat any of those teams.”

sports@thenational.ae

SCORECARD

Ireland:
W Porterfield c Harbhajan b Yuvraj 75
P Stirling b Zaheer 0
E Joyce c Dhoni b Zaheer 4
N O'Brien run out 46
A White c Dhoni b Yuvraj 5
K O'Brien c and b Yuvraj 9
A Cusack lbw b Yuvraj 24
J Mooney lbw b Yuvraj 5
T Johnston lbw b Patel 17
G Dockrell c Dhoni b Zaheer 3
B Rankin not out 1
Extras (lb4, nb6, w8) 18

Total (for all out; 47.5 overs) 207

Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Stirling), 2-9 (Joyce), 3-122 (N O'Brien), 4-129 (White), 5-147 (K O'Brien), 6-160 (Porterfield), 7-178 (Mooney), 8-184 (Cusack), 9-201 (Dockrell), 10-207 (Johnston)
Bowling: Zaheer 9-1-30-3 (w1), Patel 4.5-0-25-1 (w1), Pathan 7-1-32-0, Harbhajan 9-1-29-0 (w1), Chawla 8-0-56-0 (nb6, w3), Yuvraj 10-0-31-5 (w2)

India:
V Sehwag c and b Johnston 5
S Tendulkar lbw b Dockrell 38
G Gambhir c Cusack b Johnston 10
V Kohli run out 34
Y Singh not out 50
MS Dhoni lbw b Dockrell 34
Y Pathan not out 30
Extras (lb4, w5) 9

Total (for five wickets; 46 overs) 210

Fall of wickets: 1-9 (Sehwag), 2-24 (Gambhir), 3-87 (Tendulkar), 4-100 (Kohli), 5-167 (Dhoni)
Bowling: Rankin 10-1-34-0 (w2), Johnston 5-1-16-2 (w1), Dockrell 10-0-49-2, Mooney 2-0-18-0, Stirling 10-0-45-0 (w2), White 5-0-23-0, Kevin O'Brien 1-0-3-0, Cusack 3-0-18-0

Result: India win by five wickets