India 210 for 5 (Yuvraj 50*) beat Ireland 207 (Porterfield 75, Yuvraj 5-31) by five wickets
Yuvraj Singh saved the blushes for India, allowing them to hide the ordinary effort from other spinners, by picking his maiden five-for to restrict Ireland to 207 before he hit an unbeaten fifty to settle India’s nerves in a hard-fought win in Bangalore. Ireland enhanced their reputation by defending the target with disciplined bowling and excellent fielding and made India huff and puff to the victory line.
On a dry pitch, where the ball came on slowly, the Indian batsmen preferred to play within themselves and tried to play risk-free cricket but kept losing wickets at regular intervals to keep Ireland interested in the chase. India were 24 for 2 in the sixth over, reached 100 for four at the fall of Virat Kohli in the 24th over, and recovered to 167 for 5 when MS Dhoni exited in the 41st over before Yusuf Pathan flexed his muscles to hasten the end.
Ireland could have done far better had they not stumbled against Yuvraj’s bowling. They were eyeing a 250-plus target after a 113-run third-wicket stand between William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien but a run-out opened a window for Yuvraj to trigger a collapse. The most significant moment of the innings came in the 27th over, with Ireland sitting pretty on 122 for 2, when a set Niall O’Brien couldn’t make it in time to beat the throw from Virat Kohli in the covers. Dhoni did well to collect the slightly wayward throw and flick it onto the stumps. It was the beginning of the end.
As ever, Yuvraj ambled in like a Sunday-park bowler and as always proved to be street-smart. His art is very simple: he turns the ball slightly but his USP is the variation in pace, using a scrambled seam. He is usually slow and slower but surprises the batsmen with a quicker one. Today, too, he struck to his regular staple diet of slower ones; some were delivered with a round arm, some from higher straighter arm, and some with a crouched bent-knee release to get the ball to skid on.
If you just catch the highlights of his wickets, most would seem like soft dismissals. To an extent they were, but that’s the illusion of nothingness he provides the batsmen, who then make seemingly silly mistakes. Andrew White was sucked into edging a flighted delivery to Dhoni, Kevin O’Brien tapped one softly back, Porterfield swatted a short ball straight to cover and John Mooney and Alex Cusack were trapped by skidders that came in with the arm. When White fell in the 30th over, Ireland were 129 for 4 and by the time Yuvraj got Cusack, Ireland had slid to 184 for 8 in the 44th over.
Until then, India were looking really ragged in the field. Only Zaheer Khan bowled well to take two early wickets and Porterfield and Niall O’Brien played risk-free cricket to lay a good platform. Their case was helped by some ordinary bowling from the spinners. Harbhajan Singh looked off-key, straying on to the pads once too often, Yusuf Pathan erred on length, often dragging them short, and Piyush Chawla hit the wrong lines.
None of that profligacy was seen in Ireland’s bowling effort. Trent Johnston, who is the top wicket taker for Ireland, struck two vital blows early, getting Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir to ensure India wouldn’t waltz to an easy win. Almost immediately, Porterfield brought in the teenaged left-arm spinner George Dockrell, who turned in a pleasing opening spell that read 4-0-14-0. He rarely gave anything to cut, always bowled slow through the air and was never afraid to flight. He had Kohli mistiming a few shots and made Tendulkar bat cautiously. Success came in his second spell, when he struck in his first delivery of the 21st over, trapping Tendulkar with a delivery that went past the attempted sweep. He could have got the wicket of Kohli, too, in his next over but Niall O’Brien, the keeper, couldn’t hold on to an edge. Later, he trapped Dhoni lbw with a delivery that straightened on middle and leg to give a window of hope for Ireland but Yusuf Pathan shut it very quickly with two monstrous sixes in the same over.