Singh leads India to victory
Yuvraj Singh produced a Man of the Match performance to lead India to a 2-1 Series win over South Africa in the Future Cup. Heavy rain reduced the contest to 31 overs per side, after more than 5 hours were lost on a gloomy Belfast morning. India won the toss and had no hesitation in inserting the opposition on a seamer friendly pitch. They certainly made use of the conditions, as Ajit Agarkar got one to nip back to trap Morne Van Wyk bang in front in his first over, and in his next produced an absolute gem of a delivery which left Jacques Kallis and clipped the top of off stump. AB De Villiers had an amazing let off when he edged the ball to slip, but umpire Dar thought the deflection was off pad rather than bat. To compound the agony for the unlucky RP Singh, Gambhir dropped a regulation catch at midwicket off the next delivery.
That sort of luck couldn't continue, as so it proved as Sourav Ganguly removed De Villiers for 15, caught by Dhoni after edging onto his pad, and the next ball JP Duminy was lbw, to leave South Africa in deep trouble at 28 for 4. They were rescued by a 99 run partnership between Justin Kemp (61), and Herschelle Gibbs (56). The pair weathered the early storm before launching a late barrage of strokes, mixing orthodox shots with some belligerent blows. They were particularly severe on the spinners, whose six combined overs went for a total of 55 runs. Gibbs went for 56 in the 29th over, bowled by Zaheer Khan heaving across the line, and both Justin Kemp and Andrew Hall fell in the final over to Sachin Tendulkar, much to the delight of the Stormont crowd, most of whom were cheering on India.
A total of 148 for 7 looked to be slightly short of a par score, and so it proved as the game unfolded. Sachin Tendulkar played two exquisite shots to the boundary, before edging Ntini to a diving Boucher, to depart for 8, much to the disappointment of the estimated 2 400 spectators. Gautum Gambhir played on to Dale Steyn to go for 5, and when Sourav Ganguly (18) edged Nel to Boucher, the game was very much in the balance at 38 for 3.
Skipper Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh then built a solid foundation for the victory, adding 70 in just under 16 overs. Dravid hit 38 in 48 balls (4 fours), before being run out by a direct hit by Mark Boucher with a brilliant piece of fielding. Yuvray Singh held his nerve and played some powerful strokes to finish unbeaten on 59 off 82 balls (6 fours and a six). One of those boundaries nearly decapitated MS Dhoni, who did well to avoid the thunderbolt which came in his direction! Dhoni himself made a typically quickfire unbeaten 14, as India prevailed with 4 balls to spare.
The spoils of the Series all came India's way, with Rahul Dravid collecting the Trophy and the winners cheque, Yuvraj Singh the MOM accolade, and Sachin Tendulkar the Player of the Series, although he was at pains to point out the valuable contribution made by Yuvraj Singh.
What They Said
Jacques Kallis: "We put ourselves under pressure in the first 12 overs when we scored at a rate of just 2. India bowled really well with the new ball and put us under great pressure. Herchelle (Gibbs) and Justin Kemp played superbly to get us up to a target we could bowl to. We got ourselves into a decent position when we bowled but unfortunately we missed a few opportunities. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that we are in our off season. A lot of the guys haven't done too much training. That was a factor, but it's till disappointing we couldn't press down the advantage. The ball did probably move around a bit more when we batted, but to be fair it did a bit as well when India batted. The toss was important but I think we gave it away a little bit. I thought Justin Kemp did incredibly well - he's been in the set up for a long time."
On the decision to play 5 seamers - "We thought the conditions would suit our seam attack, especially with the rain around. It's never easy for the spinners to bowl with a wet ball. We wanted to have a look at Dale (Steyn). It was definitely a pitch and weather for the seamers."
On Yuvraj Singh. "He played really well. He's an experienced player who has obviously been in those situations before. He played the game perfectly, and timed the run chase well. I think the Indian team is getting a good balance and mix now. I think they'll have a good series in England, and it will help them that they've prepared for that by having a tough series of matches with us."
Rahul Dravid: "It feels good to win a One Day Series against the number two side in the world, away from home, in conditions which I thought suited them more than ourselves. WE played well throughout the Series, and all the games were close. I though we acquitted ourselves really well. I'm very happy for the boys, and I thought everybody contributed at some stage through the 3 games. It was a good toss to win, but having said that the ball seamed around all through the day. I thought we bowled well, with out frontline bowlers pitching the ball up and executing the plans we had talked about over the past week."
"It was good to win away from home, and it's a good confidence boost after the recent disappointments. The team have been through a lot and it's nice to taste some sucess after we put in a lot of hard work. I think the senior players showed a good example to the younger players in the squad in this series, and it was good to see them taking responsibility. This sets us up nicely for the forthcoming tour of England - we've played in some tough conditions and won.The team was the man of the series - it was a great team effort. Yuvraj was a fantastic finisher for us. He's got the power and the skill, and that combined with temperament, mental skill and brains is a deadly combination.He is up there among the best One Day players in the world, and I just hope that he can translate some of these performances into the Test arena, and play a huge role for India in the years to come. It's been a good week."
Yuvraj Singh: "It's been tough. I was out for 3 or 4 months, and it wasn't easy. The ball was doing a bit out there. It gives you a lot of confidence to win a series like this and to do well. I've been playing International cricket for a number of years, and I'm learning all the time. When you do well against a good team, it gives you confidence. Knowing you can do well against the best under pressure gives you a great sense of belief."