Marginally short of a length, Ronsford Beatonís delivery to begin the 34th over sat up nicely for a Yuvraj Singh drive. The batsman leaned into it and set the leather off on its journey through the covers. It didnít travel very long, though; the ball slowed down upon meeting one of the many wild patches of clumpy grass just outside the inner circle and came to rest in another. Had the Chinnaswamy been a golf course, its outfield was less fairway than gnarled fescue. Also Read: I am getting better and better with each off-season, says Yuvraj
Next up, with the comfort of knowing that there was more protection than just the four fielders on the off side, fast bowler Beaton angled the ball towards the slips. Yuvraj, having given it a real crack this time, watched with agony as the ball lost its velocity inside one savannah patch and spluttered to a halt about a fingerís length from the rope. Then, just as Yuvraj began his trot to salvage a single, Andre Fletcher accidentally hoofed the ball over the fence.
Such was the fashion in which the India A captain brought up his second four of the day. With that, he moved from 61 to 65, off the 67th ball he faced. Also Read: Selection of seniors in India A is a show of both intent, faith, writes Harsha Bhogle
Despite this being his first competitive match of any kind in four months, Yuvraj was not looking to play himself in. Stronger, leaner and hungrier, the 31-year oldís strokes were crisp and sharp right from the moment he swaggered out to the wicket. But weeks of torrential rain and floods in Karnataka had empowered the field with great resistive qualities. This, and not the West Indies A attack, was proving to be his sternest opposition.
So Yuvraj decided to take this opponent out of the equation. And India A scored 131 runs in their next (and last) eight overs. A bulk of those runs, 97 of them, were scored in four 20-plus-run overs. India ended up winning this rain-curtailed, 42-overs-a-side one-dayer, by 77 runs.
The over after Yuvrajís boundary hit, Nikita Miller ó a left-arm spinner from Jamaica with an uncanny resemblance to Dave Chappelle ó began the 35th. His first ball, fired in towards the pads, was greeted by Yuvrajís dead bat. Then Miller gave it some air. And so did Yurvaj, dumping it a tier above midwicket. Miller altered his length and pitched it short, but Yuvraj had slipped into one of those moods, and tonked it against the sightscreen on the bounce.
Miller came around the wicket to change his angle. But he bowled a waist-high full toss. A fan sitting behind long-on would surely have blamed his bruised finger on the bowler. Finally, on his sixth attempt, Miller found the perfect length. Too late, said Yuvraj, giving that fan another go at catching one for posterity.
Four pure cricket shots took Yuvraj to 98. He would get his hundred with a six too, but for that he had to wait for the pyrotechnics to finish at the other end, courtesy Yusuf Pathan. Like Yuvraj, Yusuf too was last seen in action during the IPL in May. But he still seemed to be playing for KKR. With five savage slogs ó three sixes and two fours ó Pathan had off-spinner Ashley Nurse mourning the loss of 28 runs from his over.
The 38th began with Yuvrajís hundred hit, a short-arm punch off Beaton that gave the ball a new cozy home, Cubbon Park. He didnít stop there of course, collecting a further 18 runs from the over. And neither did Pathan, whistling three more heaves over the fence in the final over, bowled by leggie Nkrumah Bonner, to finish with an unbeaten 32-ball 70. India had 312, of which Yuvraj had contributed 123.
With an asking rate of 7.45, West Indies needed a Pathan-esque innings. But all they got was a Mandeep Singh-like knock (the Punjab batsmen had scored a steady 67 at the top of the Indian order). Narsingh Deonarine, the Guyanese southpaw whose 14 Tests have been spread out over nine years, played in much the same pace as that of his career. Having batted with five different partners, he scored 57. Just one of those stands passed the 50-mark.
The West Indians found it a hard enough task to work the Indian pacers off the square, let alone putting bat on ball when the spinners were on. And when they did manage to push one through the flock of fielders in the inner circle, the Chinnaswamy outfield did the rest.