New Zealand pipped India by one run in a thrilling Twenty20 international in Chennai on Tuesday to ruin cancer survivor Yuvraj Singh’s return to big-time cricket.
Brendon McCullum smashed 91 off 55 balls as the Kiwis posted 167-5 and then restricted the hosts to 166-4, despite Virat Kohli’s 70 from 41 deliveries and a valiant 34 from Yuvraj.
Yuvraj, who was treated for a rare germ-cell tumor between his lungs earlier this year, bowled two wicketless overs for 14 runs, took a catch and hit one four and two sixes.
However, it was not enough to secure victory for his team, as the Black Caps fought back in the final overs to pull off a brilliant win in front of 25,000 disappointed home fans.
“There are mixed emotions,” a visibly moved Yuvraj said later. “We lost a game that we should have won, but for me personally it was a big emotional moment to get on the field.”
“I had tears in my eyes when we were fielding, luckily the cameras did not catch it. I think I am timing the ball well and it can only get better from here,” he added.
India were cruising at 120-2 in the 14th over when left-arm seamer James Franklin turned the match around by having Kohli caught in the deep.
The dismissal put the brakes on the scoring, leaving India needing 13 runs off Franklin’s last over.
Franklin bowled Yuvraj with the fourth ball when six more were needed, but new batsman Rohit Sharma could manage only four runs from the last two deliveries.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was stranded at the non-striker’s end on 22 not out.
New Zealand clinched the two-match series, a tune-up for next week’s World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, after the opening game was washed on Saturday.
“This win will give us a lot of confidence going into the World T20,” New Zealand captain Ross Taylor said. “Kohli could have taken it away from us, but Franklin really needs a big pat on the back.”
Yuvraj, man of the tournament in India’s World Cup triumph last year, was recalled to the Twenty20 side despite not having played competitive cricket since November.
The Chennai fans gave Yuvraj a standing ovation when he was asked to bowl the seventh over of the innings by Dhoni.
Yuvraj conceded four singles in his first over of left-arm spin and then suffered a hard knock in his bowling hand while trying to take a difficult return catch off McCullum in his second.
Having given away 14 runs in his two overs, Yuvraj delighted teammates and fans as he gleefully caught a skier at cover point to dismiss Franklin.
Further warm applause greeted his arrival at the crease to bat and Yuvraj responded by lofting Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram for sixes.
McCullum led the charge for the Black Caps with 11 boundaries and three sixes before he was bowled by left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan.
McCullum added 90 runs for the third wicket with Kane Williamson (28) after the Black Caps had lost openers Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill by the second over.
Taylor and Oram plundered 21 runs in the last two overs, which proved costly for India in the end.