Yuvraj stars as India defeat Ireland
India sealed a careful five-wicket victory over a plucky but outgunned Ireland in their Group B match on Sunday, as Yuvraj Singh took five wickets and scored a 50.
Set a small total of 208 to win, India took their time in a respectful and cautious run chase as they got home with four overs to spare.
The win gets India’s campaign back on track following their thrilling tie with England a week ago. The two sides now share the lead of wide-open Group B with five points, although the co-hosts have a game in hand.
Indian captain MS Dhoni put the Irish in to bat after winning the toss, a decision vindicated when Singh took five as the home team bowled Ireland out for 207.
The Irish were unable to repeat the batting heroics they produced against England last week, struggling all day against India’s slow bowlers.
Spinners Yuvraj, Harbhajan Singh, Yusuf Pathan and a struggling Piyush Chawla did most of the work, but Yuvraj was the only slow bowler to get wickets.
In fact it was paceman Zaheer Khan who provided India with their initial breakthroughs.
Khan had Ireland in all sorts of trouble at 9/2 after he clean bowled Paul Stirling and then had number three Ed Joyce caught behind.
An Irish fightback followed, with captain William Porterfield and number four Niall O’Brien putting on the only substantial partnership of the innings, one that measured a valuable 113 runs.
That stand went along at a reasonable 4.24 runs per over and it saved Ireland an embarrassingly low total, especially since wickets tumbled quickly once it was broken.
O’Brien was run out with the score on 122, and that was the start of the Irish slide. It was also Yuvraj’s cue to start taking wickets.
The next five were his, and they included two big scalps in the form of Porterfield and danger man Kevin O’Brien.
O’Brien, who caused so much havoc against England with his 50-ball century, was caught and bowled for a mere nine runs.
Porterfield was out not long after that, mistiming Yuvraj to Harbhajan in the covers for a well-played 75.
By then it was 160/6 with 13 overs remaining, which left the Irish tail with too much to do.
Alex Cusack became Yuvraj’s fifth victim with the score on 178, and the rest folded quickly as Khan and Munaf Patel wrapped up the innings with Ireland falling 2.4 overs short of using their full allocation.
Yuvraj ended the innings with figures of 5/31 in his 10 overs, with Khan also making a key contribution of 3/30 in nine.
Chawla, on the other hand, was booed by the home fans as he had an awful day and returned figures of 0/56 in his eight overs.
Ireland’s bowling effort started fantastically, with danger man Virender Sehwag caught and bowled by Trent Johnston for just five.
When Johnson then had Gautam Gambhir caught at short fine leg to make it 24/2, the Irish had every reason to start dreaming again.
Much like the Irish, though India then set about a painfully laborious reconstruction of their innings through a third-wicket partnership.
Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli took India to 87/2 before Tendulkar lost concentration and was out LBW to George Dockrell for 38.
When Kohli was the victim of a mix-up with Yuvraj Singh and was run out with the score on 100, there was still some hope for the Irish, whose fielding was as good, enthusiastic and committed as it has been throughout the tournament.
But with big hitters like Yusuf Pathan still to come, plus a batting power play, there was always a feeling that India had things covered.
And so it proved. Dhoni and Yuvraj put on another careful stand, this time for the fifth wicket, to take India within sight of the win.
When Dhoni got out with India still 41 from their target, there may have been a trace of nervousness in the crowd, but in actual fact it was the moment that put the match beyond doubt.
That’s because it brought Pathan to the wicket, who took away any nerves by bludgeoning two sixes and a four in his first five balls.
Pathan and Yuvraj took the Indians over the line, with little trouble after that, convincingly avoiding the banana skin that did for England last week.
"I think the most important thing is that everyone got a chance to bat. We were batting under pressure," said Dhoni, whose side now sit top of Group B.
"We are showing signs of improvement. I feel it's importanat to peak at the right time because it's a long tournament. What we have seen is slow and gradual improvement in the bowling side."
Ireland captain William Porterfield, who made an impressive 75 as opener, said his side were 40 runs short of a challenging target.
"I think we got ourselves into a great position after losing two early wickets. We're fighting well and we fought right until the end. An extra 40 runs could have been interesting," he said.
India – Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wk & capt), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel
Ireland – William Porterfield (capt), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Andrew White, Alex Cusack, Kevin O’Brien, John Mooney, Trent Johnston, George Dockrell, Boyd Rankin