Yuvraj Singh made a sensational return to international cricket, blasting his way to an unbeaten 35-ball 77 as India beat Australia by six wickets in a high-scoring one-off T20, in Rajkot, on Thursday.
He forged an unbeaten 102-run stand with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as India chased down a huge 202-run target with two balls to spare.
Carrying his sublime form from the India ‘A’ series against the touring West Indies ‘A’, through which he forced his way into the team, he plundered eight fours and five sixes in his 35-ball essay.
The left-hander whacked the bowlers all around the park as his trademark powerful flicks, ferocious cuts and elegantly lofted drives enthralled a packed house even as the Australians watched helplessly.
Batting like a man-possessed, Yuvraj got to his 50 with a straight six off pacer James Faulkner, while Dhoni (24 off 21) finished the match with a four and couple off Shane Watson.
Earlier, Aaron Finch powered Australia to a challenging 201 for seven with a blistering 89-run knock off 52-ball as the visiting batsmen made merry on a flat wicket after being invited to bat at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
He plundered 15 boundaries, including a six, as he anchored the Australian innings, while debutant Nic Maddinson (34) and Glenn Maxwell (27) also played useful knocks.
Had it not been for some exceptional bowling by pace duo of R Vinay Kumar (3-26) and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (3-25), who shared six wickets between them, Australia may have ended up with a bigger total.
An off-colour R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma bled 93 runs in six wicket-less overs between them and that cost India dearly. However, the wicket had nothing for the bowlers even as they bowled poorly.
But India’s batsmen made up for the poor first half with some excellent batting even though the start was not that good, as Rohit Sharma (8) exited early and Suresh Raina (19) could not build on to a good start.
Since Shikhar Dhawan (32) and Virat Kohli (29) were striking the ball cleanly, India maintained a healthy run-rate but not keeping wickets did cause some anxiety.
Dhawan was stumped off Xaviwer Doherty while Kohli was caught off Clint McKay even as India reached 100 in 11 overs.
Dhoni and Yuvraj then turned it on with their scintillating batting.
Earlier, Finch and Nic Maddinson raced to 50 in just 4.1 overs. The young Maddinson showed no signs of nerves as he punished the bowlers to score a 16-ball 34.
The 21-year old left-hander forged a 56-run opening stand with Finch before being castled by seamer Bhuvneshwar.
Vinay Kumar picked the wickets of all-rounder Shane Watson (6) and Aussie skipper George Bailey (0) to bring some relief for the hosts.
But the visitors came back strongly as Glenn Maxwell blazed through the opposition attack to score 27 off just 13 balls.
The 24-year old played a blinder, hitting four sixes in his fluent knock, including three in the same over against Ravichandran Ashwin.
Finch was dismissed in the 17th over when Vinay held on to a powerful strike on his follow-through.
James Faulkner struck a last-ball six to guide the team past the 200-run mark.
Image: Yuvraj Singh