Yuvraj innings wins praise from Kohli as India triumph

India's Yuvraj Singh tormented Pakistan's bowlers with 53 off 32 balls as his side romped to a 124-run win over their arch-rivals. India will next play Sri Lanka in Group B of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament.
India's Yuvraj Singh tormented Pakistan's bowlers with 53 off 32 balls as his side romped to a 124-run win over their arch-rivals. India will next play Sri Lanka in Group B of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament.PHOTO: REUTERS

BIRMINGHAM • Virat Kohli has established himself as one of the best batsmen of his generation, but the India captain said he felt like an amateur playing next to free-scoring team-mate Yuvraj "Yuvi" Singh in Sunday's Champions Trophy victory over Pakistan.

India's top four batsmen helped themselves to half-centuries, but none of them looked as fluent as Yuvraj, whose quickfire 53 off 32 balls enhanced his reputation as one of the sweetest timers of the ball.

"I felt like a club batsman while playing alongside 'Yuvi', the way he was hitting the ball," Kohli said after India kicked off their title defence with a comprehensive 124-run victory over their rivals.

A 136-run opening stand between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan laid the foundation for a big total, although Kohli appeared to struggle for momentum in the rain-interrupted match.

But Yuvraj's unbridled aggression lifted the pressure on Kohli, who accelerated towards the end to remain not out on 81 off 68 balls.

"The way he batted, I think it was the game-changing innings to be honest. That gave all of us the confidence to start striking the ball well," Kohli said of Yuvraj, who missed both of India's warm-up games with viral fever.

"The way he batted was the way only he can strike the ball, hitting low full tosses for fours and sixes, and even digging out yorkers for fours - he was outstanding."

It was only after he had been dropped on 43 that Kohli stepped on the gas and hit three sixes.

"I could not get the big ones because it was tricky," the 28-year-old said of the sluggish phase.

"We went off about four times and we came back in.

"So a player who likes to play a long innings, and usually plays like that for the time, it becomes difficult to find momentum every time you come back."

Pakistan faced calls for a total overhaul yesterday after slumping to their "shameful defeat".

The Indian Express called the triumph the "Mother of all Mismatches", while The Times of India said it was an "opening statement" at the tournament.

A headline in The Hindu read "India knocks the stuffing out of Pakistan" with the newspaper calling the recent cricketing rivalry between the two neighbours "anything but competitive".

Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi was among several ex-players to call for a major shake-up in the aftermath of the humiliating defeat.

"The gap between Indian and Pakistani teams is bigger than ever! India has evolved and we are way behind now," he said in a tweet.

"We need to overhaul approach, mindset and work on improving our stagnating skills and play with clear minds."

Cricket writer Osman Samiuddin slammed Pakistan's demoralising loss, suggesting they were not up to the challenge.

"India arguably didn't get out of 3rd gear and still never looked like doing anything other than winning comfortably," he wrote on Twitter.

Pakistan play South Africa in their next Group B match tomorrow, while India meet Sri Lanka on Thursday.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline 'Yuvraj innings wins praise from Kohli as India triumph'. Print Edition | Subscribe