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A fantastic all round display from veteran left-hander Yuvraj Singh helped India post a confident 5-wicket win against minnows Ireland in ICC Cricket World Cup at Bengaluru on Sunday. Ireland fresh from their historic triumph against England on Wednesday put in a decent shift, competiting with their more illustrious opponents for large parts of the contest, but a 5-wicket haul from Yuvraj Singh, that saw him rip through the lower order meant that the Irish could post a total of just 207 on the board. It was never going to be enough, but the Europeans kept chipping away with useful wickets to ensure that India were made to work for their win, taking 46 overs in the process.
India won the toss and opted to field first, probably influenced in part by their recent inability to defend 338, and also by Ireland's successful chase of 320+ in their last outing against England. India's bowling has looked rather mediocre in the tournament thus far and it was a bit of a surprise that they named an unchanged squad, leaving Ashish Nehra and R Ashwin out in the cold, despite Munaf Patel and Piyush Chawla conceding more than 7 an over in their last outing.
Ireland got an early reprieve when skipper William Porterfield was put down on naught by Yusuf Pathan in the very first over off Zaheer Khan, and the wicket went on to cost India plenty. Zaheer though did strike in his opening over, removing Paul Stirling for a golden duck with a beauty that swung back into the right hander and hit the woodwork. The left-arm seamer then made it two wickets in as many overs, finding the inside edge of Ed Joyce's bat, giving Dhoni a routine catch behind the stumps.
Ireland were 9/2 and in desperate need of a partnership and the Senior O'Brien - Niall - walked out to the middle to join his skipper. The early movement disipated slowly, and there wasn't really much turn on offer on a rather slow pitch. The batsmen dropped anchor and played their way through the first powerplay making just 27 runs from the first 10 overs, but crucially not losing any more wickets.
The bowling powerplay was a little more productive as Ireland added 20 runs and upped their run rate to over 3 an over. A poor opening over from Piyush Chawla got Ireland going with 15 runs coming off it, including a slog sweep for 6 from a free hit, only the second time in the World Cup thus far that a free hit was taken for maximum.
By the half-way stage of the innings, Ireland were looking good at 118/2, closing in on 5 an over and a score in excess of 250 looked on the cards. However, a run out finally ended an excellent third wicket stand with O'Brien found short of his crease 4 runs shy of what would have been a well deserved half century.
It was the Yuvraj Singh show from there on as the innocuous left arm spinner went on to pick up career best figures of 5-31 by ripping through the Ireland lower middle order. Andrew White was caught behind for 5 and then Irish hero Kevin O'Brien fell to an easy caught and bowled for 9. Yuvraj should have a third wicket, but he dropped Alex Cusack off his own bowling when the allrounder was on naught.
India were a little lucky when William Porterfield gifted his wicket to Yuvraj on the first delivery after the drinks break, hitting a rank long hop straight down the throat of Harbhajan Singh at cover. The Irish skipper had made an invaluable 75 and was well on course for a century. The wickets kept coming for India as Yuvraj trapped both John Mooney and Cusack leg before. The latter making it five wickets for the part-time spinner, albeit with the benefit of an exceptionally long review, with the on-field umpire over-ruling his own decision despite the batsman being much more than 2.5 meters down the track.
Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel came back to knock over the tail and India were given the small task of chasing 208 to win.
The hosts got off to a mixed start, taking 9 runs off Boyd Rankin's opening over only to lose Virender Sehwag for 5 on the first delivery of Trent Johnston's next over, a leading edge making its way back to the bowler, who celebrated with his famed chicken dance. Sehwag was replaced by Gautam Gambhir, who played a couple of good shots before chipping a ball pitched outside leg-stump straight to the man at short fine-leg.
Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli stabilized the innings, adding 63 runs for the third wicket. They played circumspect cricket, treating each ball on its merits and avoiding undue risks. The target kept coming done, before left-arm spinner brought Ireland back into the contest by picking up the wicket of Tendulkar for 38. The 18-year old was visibly overjoyed, trapping the legend leg before.
Yuvraj Singh, came into bat with India needing a partnership to lead them to victory. Kohli was given a life when Niall O'Brien couldn't take an edge off the bowling of Dockrell, but Kohli failed to capitalize, as poor running between wickets came to haunt the Indians once again as the young Delhi boy was sent back to the pavilion with 34 runs to his name.
MS Dhoni and Yuvraj calmed things out in the middle and kept picking up singles and twos to take India home. The required runrate never went out of reach as it stayed close to 4 runs per over. They brought up the 50 partnership and it appeared to be the end of a brave Irish effort, but Dockrell struck once again trapping Dhoni in front for 34, leaving India at 167/5 in the 41st over.
Ireland would have sniffed a chance of an unlikely upset but Yusuf Pathan destroyed any such dreams. He came in and hit Dockrell for 16 runs in one over, including two massive sixes. It was a formality after that as the Indians coasted home in the end. Yuvraj reached a deserving half-century, and became the first player to pick up 5 wickets and score a 50 in a World Cup match. Pathan hit the winning runs to extend India's unbeaten run in the tournament, and take the co-hosts to the top of Group B.
Ireland will take plenty of positives from their performance tonight as they head into a must win game against the West Indies on Friday at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. India meanwhile can seal their quarter-final berth with a win against the Netherlands at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi on Wednesday.
Ireland: Porterfield, Stirling, Joyce, N O'Brien, White, K O'Brien, Cusack, Mooney, Johnston, Dockrell, Rankin.
India: Sehwag, Tendulkar, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Pathan, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Chawla, Patel.
Ireland 207 all out (47.5 overs, 4.32rpo)
William Porterfield 75 (104) Yuvraj 5-31
Niall O'Brien 46 (78) Zaheer 3-30
India 210/5 (46 overs, 4.56rpo)
Yuvraj Singh 50 (75) Johnston 2-16
Sachin Tendulkar 38 (56) Dockrell 2-49
India win by 5 wickets
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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