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Yuvraj's Fairytale Return Gives India Victory

Yuvraj Singh cuts
Yuvraj Singh was at his majestic best to power India to victory.
©REUTERS/Vivek Prakash. Picture Supplied by Action Images

India 202-4 (Yuvraj 77no) beat
Australia 201-7 (Finch 89) by 6 wickets
Only T20 International, Rajkot

Yuvraj Singh marked his international cricket return with a match-winning 77 not out in the one-off Twenty20 International against Australia in Rajkot.

India had looked to be slipping in their pursuit of their formidable target of 202 at 100 for four in the 12th over, but Yuvraj - sidelined since January - took the game to the Australian bowlers and, with a little support from his captain MS Dhoni, saw his side home.

As expected, it was a high-scoring game at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, with Aaron Finch continuing his blazing form at the top of Australia’s batting line-up by smashing 89 off just 52 balls. He added a scarcely believable 56 in 29 balls with debutant opener Nic Maddinson.

Maddinson, a 21 year-old with prodigious talent from New South Wales, appeared undaunted by playing the biggest team in cricket, at home, in arguably their favourite format, and smashed 34 off only 16 balls before being bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Australia’s middle-order didn’t build upon their start as effectively as they might have done. They lost Shane Watson and George Bailey in quick succession to Vinay Kumar during the eighth over, although Glenn Maxwell - clearly with an eye on keeping his name in the frame for another big-money IPL deal - played a powerful cameo of 27 off 13 balls that included four sixes.

He fell in the 12th over to make it 124 for four, but Australia’s late charge never really materialised once Finch had been sent packing by Vinay Kumar in the 17th over. It ended another majestic innings from Finch that further cemented his place at the top of Australia’s T20 batting line-up following his record-breaking 156 against England earlier this year.

The 21 balls following his departure yielded a disappointing 27 runs as Australia’s all-rounders struggled to find the boundary in the latter stages. Nonetheless, any team that posts 201 in a T20 game and takes India’s leading bowlers R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma for a combined total of 93 runs from six overs must be pretty pleased with their evening’s work.

It took an innings of brilliance from a slim-line Yuvraj to wipe the smile off their faces. Coming into the series, he had been in good form for India A and India Blue after following a rigorous training regime, and it showed with a remarkable display of clean hitting. 35 balls brought five sixes and eight fours, with his 77 runs taking India across the winning line with two balls to spare. MS Dhoni, content to play second-fiddle at the other end, finished on 24 off 21 balls, with their partnership worth 102 off 51 balls.

The two sides meet again, in the first of seven One-Day Internationals, on Sunday in Pune.

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