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Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj Singh rekindle memories of yesteryears as India Legends lift Road Safety World Series trophy

In front of a full-house crowd at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium in Raipur, former India stars Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan lit up the skies with their blistering sixes as they helped India Legends win the inaugural edition of the Road Safety World Series T20 tournament. The Indian Legends side defeated Sri Lanka Legends by 14 runs in the final game. 

While Yuvraj hit four fours and four sixes in his 41 balls 60 run innings, Yusuf seemed to be dealing only in boundaries hitting five sixes and four fours in his 36 balls 62.  He came good with the ball too, picking up two crucial wickets of dangermen Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya. It was this all-round performance of his that earned him the Man of the Match award in the final. 

The target of 182 set up by India Legends was never going to be an easy chase, even in the dew for Sri Lanka. It turned out to be difficult than expected as the team lost their skipper Dilshan very cheaply. Jayasuriya looked a vintage version of himself till the time he was on the crease, scoring 43 off 35 with the help of five fours and a six. Chamara Silva went cheaply. But what hurt Sri Lanka more was the departure of Upul Tharanga, another man in form departing without performing much. He was removed by Irfan Pathan. 

In the end, it came down to lesser-known players like Chinthaka Jayasinghe and Kaushalya Weeraratne. They did amazingly well, recovering Sri Lanka legends innings, taking it from 91-4 to 155 in a span of just 35 balls. The Legends from the island nation came in touching distance of the victory after hitting R Vinay Kumar for 19 runs in the 18th over. 

Only 30 was needed from the last two when Manpreet Gony took the ball and removed Weeraratne, changing the course of the game. Weeraratne scored 38 off 15 with the help of three sixes and three fours. Jayasinghe, however, stood there and hit a six off the very first ball of the last over, bringing the equation down to 18 from five balls. 

Unfortunately, he got off the strike the very next ball and Nuwan Kulasekara missed the third ball, making 18 from three, When Jayasinghe got back the strike the target became almost impossible to achieve, with 16 required off the last two. He got run out in an attempt to retain the strike for the last ball. 

Earlier in the day, India Legends were asked to bat by Sri Lanka Legends. After the fall of Virender Sehwag and Subrimanium Badrinath cheaply, the Legends side rode on some brilliantly nostalgic drives from Sachin Tendulkar and then the explosive batting from Yuvraj and Pathan to get to 181 in their allotted 20 overs.  

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IND W vs RSA W| Laura Wolvaardt, Lizelle Lee, forgettable day in field and a last over heartbreak: How South Africa women created history

With one run needed off the last ball, Arundhati Reddy, the Indian pace bowler bowled a perfect length ball, Laura Wolvaardt got an undercut, the ball went to Richa Ghosh at short fine leg, she failed to collect it in one go and was unable to throw as the Proteas Women completed the single. Those might have been the last moments of the game, but in them, they had the essence of the entire second innings. Ghosh personifying the misfields that went on in the entire second innings, Wolvaardt showing her mental strength of fighting all odds at every moment and her undercut revealing the luck that she carried to the ground right from the beginning of the innings, and which stayed till the end. But before all this, there transpired an entire game which led to a situation like this. Chasing a tough target of 159 on a reddish wicket at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Stadium in Lucknow, which didn’t have much dew, the South Africans didn’t have a good start. They lost last match hero Anne Bosch when the team score was just eight runs. But just like the last game, the women in green and yellow built a partnership for the third wicket, and once again it was the Indian side generously dropping catches and giving chances to the South Africans to punish them. Firstly, Lee was dropped in the eighth over off the bowling of Radha Yadav when she was batting at 30, then it was Wolvaardt, who presented Rajeshwari Gayakwad with a sitter of a caught and bowled chance and she made a meal of it. Wolvaardt who went on to hit the winning runs was batting at two back then. Lee was then dropped once again by Richa, this time at short cover when she was on 61. These two women then made the most of the chances as even after Proteas skipper Sune Luus got run out against the run of play when the team score was 66. Lee, 28 and Wolvaardt, 21 then added quick 50 runs off just 25 balls before Lee was finally caught by Radha off her own bowling. Mignon du Preez who came fayre the fall of the wicket was too removed without much fuss. But Wolvaardt on the other hand was taking the game away from India. After Radha bowled a beautiful 18th over, giving away only six runs in a crunch situation and increasing the required rate to over nine. Harleen Deol, the young batting all-rounder was trusted by Smriti to turn things around for India and she did by picking up du Preez’s wicket and giving away just two runs in the first four balls. But in the fifth ball, she bowled a very lose full toss which was hit for a four by Wolvaardt. Then again came Laura’s luck in action as her sweep shot went through her legs, just away from the wicket-keeper but fine enough to beat the short fine leg for a four. With nine to defend in the last over, Arundhati was given the ball. She started perfectly bowling four pitch-perfect balls to give away just three runs off them. Just when it seems that India might run away with the game, Arundhati bowls big beamer which is called a no-ball for height, giving Wolvaardt the opportunity to score three runs of the next two balls, the first one of them being a free hit. On the free hit, Laura ran two and it came down to just one from one on the last ball. Earlier in the evening, Smriti, after losing yet another toss, came to open the innings with Shafali and went out cheaply again. But Shafali was in no mood to relent as she put up a show for the Lucknow crowd, toying with the South African bowlers, including the great Shabnim Ismail. Before she got bowled playing down the wrong line, Verma, 17 had hit 47 off just 31 balls. Another teenager Ghosh then took over the mantle to give a perfect finish to this brilliant start by Verma. She too played some brilliant shots, albeit missing the last two balls of the innings, to score unbeaten 44 off 26 balls. Thanks to those bullish innings from Richa and Shafali and worthy contributions from Harleen (30 off 31), India reached 158 in 20 overs, their 11th highest total in the format. With this win, South Africa recorded their only fourth T20I win over India and their first-ever T20I series win against India, and in the process took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series with the final game to be played on 24th March at the same venue in Lucknow.