Yuvraj ton in vain

After the 6-1 drubbing on Sri Lanka, the new-look Indian ODI team under Rahul Dravid looked to be firmly on their way up, but today, faced with a South African side unbeaten in 19 games they came undone, despite a brilliant hundred from Yuvraj Singh.

South Africa, bringing in Johan Botha for his debut, won the toss and batted first on a pitch offering enough movement and bounce to interest South Africa’s quicks.

After a superb hundred opening the batting against Sri Lanka Gautam Gambhir was pushed down the order, allowing Sehwag and Tendulkar to be reunited at the top. But India were regretting the decision in Makhaya Ntini’s first over, courtesy of a spectacular catch by Ashwell Prince sending Sehwag on his way.

Pollock quickly followed up his new ball partners breakthrough with 2 of his own, the key wickets of Kaif, lbw, and Tendulkar, caught behind. Andre Nel soon got in on the act, bowling skipper Rahul Dravid through the gate. Gautam Gambhir fell shortly after, Ntini claiming his second scalp of the day.

Irfan Pathan came to the wicket with India in trouble of 35-5 with the difficult task of rescuing India with Yuvraj Singh. The left handed duo played sensibly, choosing to push the ball around, rather than thump it, which they are both capable of. They built a partnership of 75 together, Pathan being the aggressive partner, before Pathan edge one on to his stumps while attempting to charge Botha, giving the debutant his first wicket.

With Yuvraj receiving little more than adequate support from Dhoni and Agarkar, he began to up the ante. A pull off Ntini, and two shots over long-on found their way over the boundary, and he followed one of these with a thrashing cut shot to bring up his century. Yuvraj was run out, taking on a risky challenge in the deep and losing. His innings of 103 lasted 122 balls and included 10 fours and 3 sixes.

The entertainment did not finish there however, Harbhajan Singh treated the crowd to 4 fours and 2 sixes in his cameo of 37, which boosted India’s score to 249 leaving South Africa a round 250 to chase.

As South African fans have become accustomed to recently, Graeme Smith got their innings off to a great start. Hindered by the early loss of De Villiers and Ontong, he smashed Pathan and Agarkar all over the shop, until he dragged one from Rudra Pratap Singh onto his stumps.

Prince and Kallis both used their heads to take the game further out of India’s reach. Keeping the run rate at an acceptable level they shared an 89 run partnership, which was broken by Prince chipping one off Harbhajan to mid-on. Another wicket came shortly after, from the unlikely source of Sachin Tendulkar, whose full-toss was swept to midwicket by Boucher.

India were clawing their way back into the game, but at the crease were Jacques Kallis, one of the world’s best batsman, and Justin Kemp, an immensely strong hitter of a cricket ball. It was Kemp and Kallis who were to triumph in the end, an unbroken partnership of 84 sealing the win for South Africa. Kemp resisted the urge to try and clear the stands, his 49-ball 46 not including a single six.

This loss will be a big disappointment to India, after they looked to be on their way up against Sri Lanka. South Africa extended their unbeaten run to 20 games, and even without Gibbs and Boje they look likely to prove a very tough side to beat.

India 249-9
Yuvraj Singh 103 (122), Irfan Pathan 46 (63) Harbhajan Singh 37* (17)
Shaun Pollock 2-37 (10), Andre Nel 2-45 (10), Makhaya Ntini 2-62 (10)

South Africa 252-5
Jacques Kallis 68* (97), Graeme Smith 48 (36), Justin Kemp 46* (49)
Ajit Agarkar 2-55 (9.5)

South Africa win by 5 wickets

Cricket Web Man of the Match:
Yuvraj Singh

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