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Yuvraj steers India to victory
July 02, 2007 02:53 IST
An unbeaten 61 by Yuvraj Singh [Images] helped India beat South Africa by six wickets and clinch a rare cricket series triumph abroad on Sunday.
Chasing 149 to win in 31 overs in the rain-curtailed series decider in Belfast, India faltered and fumbled before picking themselves to post 152 for four in 30.2 overs.
Yuvraj top-scored with a gutsy innings of 61 off 85 balls that included six boundaries and a six, while Rahul Dravid [Images] contributed 36.
After Dravid left the scene at 108 for 4, Yuvraj and Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images] (14 not out) put their heads down to negotiate the daunting run-a-ball chase.
Earlier, India reduced their opponents to 28 from four but a 99-run stand between Justin Kemp (61) and Herschelle Gibbs [Images] (56) propped South Africa for a decent total of 148 for seven in 31 overs.
With the series levelled at 1-1, all eyes were on the final match but due to rain and wet outfield, the match was reduced to a 31-over-a-side contest.
And if South Africa had a disastrous beginning after being asked to take first strike in the seaming friendly conditions, it was no different with India. Sourav Ganguly [Images] (17) and Sachin Tendulkar [Images] (8), who had laid the foundation for India's victory in the previous match with a century stand, got a life each but could not capitalise on that.
Tendulkar was lucky to have edged one through slips and still got away with a boundary but it took just four deliveries for Makhaya Ntini [Images] to settle the score. Tendulkar nicked the last ball of the second over to see an airborne Mark Boucher [Images] pull off a one-handed blinder.
Gautam Gambhir [Images] (5) survived a mix-up with Ganguly before plotting his own peril by dragging a Dale Steyn delivery onto his stumps and crisis compounded when Ganguly, dropped by Jacques Kallis [Images] when on one, too departed, leaving India reeling at 38 for three inside nine overs.
India were in dire need of a solid partnership but both Yuvraj and Dravid hardly looked convincing.
Yuvraj too was dropped in the slips off Kallis, while Dravid found the all-pace South African attack too hot to handle. But to their credit, both hung on, swapping glitz for grit.
Dravid hit his counterpart Kallis for three boundaries in the 23rd over to take India past the 100-mark before throwing away his wicket.
Responding to Yuvraj's call for a quick single, Dravid was virtually strolling to the non-striker end only to see a Boucher throw disturb the stumps. It was a rare casual lapse by Dravid, who did not even ground his bat.
Yuvraj, however, kept his cool and milked the South African attack. He waited for the right opportunity and ran hard between the wickets. The dashing left-hander never allowed the pressure get the better of him and came up with a match-winning knock that also earned him the Man of the Match award.
Earlier, put into bat in difficult conditions, South Africa ran into trouble straightway with comeback man Ajit Agarkar [Images] and Ganguly coming up with identical two-wicket bursts. .
Keen to make his mark in the series after missing the first two matches with flu, Agarkar trapped in-form Morne van Wyk for a duck with his fifth delivery, which swung in after pitching just outside the off stump.
His second over too yielded a wicket with the gem of a delivery that hit the perfect length and swung the other way past the flailing blade of a bamboozled Jacques Kallis to hit the off-stump. Like van Wyk, the South African batting mainstay too did not trouble the scorer.
Agarkar's first spell of 4-0-8-2 made impressive reading.
South Africa could have been in further trouble with opener AB de Villiers (15) back in the pavilion but first it was umpire Aleem Dar and then Gautam Gambhir, who let Zaheer Khan [Images] down in the eventful fifth over.
Zaheer was breathing fire and induced a thick edge from de Villiers which nestled into Sachin Tendulkar's safe hands in first slip. The entire Indian squad was celebrating but Dar was not amused and did not bother to consult fellow-umpire Mark Benson either.
Incidentally, Dar is part of the five-member match unit, which has been barred from officiating in the Twenty20 Cup World Championship for their World Cup final fiasco in Barbados.
Off In the very next ball, Gambhir fumbled and floored a catch at square-leg after the batsman had clipped Zaheer.
Sourav Ganguly, however, ensured that the opener did not make the most of the lives he got. On a condition that suited his bowling, Ganguly was in fact on a hat-trick after removing de Villiers and Jean-Paul Duminy (0) with successive deliveries.
de Villiers perished after a bat-pad dismissal, while Duminy was rapped on the pad by a slightly faster delivery after an attempted flick.
Kemp, however, foiled Ganguly's hat-trick bid even though he was not very convincing as he inside edged it to fine leg.
South Africa found itself in a morass at 28 for four inside 13 overs.
Their back against the wall, Kemp and Gibbs decided attack was the best defence and counter-attacked with Piyush Chawla and Yuvraj Singh bearing the brunt of the charge.
Zaheer eventually yorked Gibbs after a 67-ball knock of 56, which included three fours and two sixes.
Kemp's run-a-ball 61 came to an end in the final over when Sachin Tendulkar, hit for a six in the previous ball, castled him. Kemp hit five boundaries and two sixes in his knock.