It had been 17 months since Yuvraj Singh had an opportunity to showcase his talent in the Test arena. In the interim, he had developed in one of the world’s leading limited-overs batsmen, but the old guard of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman left him no spot in the Test side.
Yuvraj came in with the side tottering at 61 for 4 with Dinesh Karthik as the only specialist batsman to follow. He started extremely nervously; a tuck off his hips from Arafat got the scoreboard ticking, but it was only when he played a glorious shot down the ground off Mohammad Sami that he began to resemble the man who has tormented Pakistan over the past few years.
Younis Khan failed to hold on to a difficult chance at slip when Yuvraj was on 12. Yuvraj celebrated the reprieve with a gorgeous cover drive off Sami, and the complexion of the match changed as he and Sourav Ganguly began to pick off the loose deliveries with precision and ease. Sami was repeatedly creamed through the covers, while Kaneria was cut and driven for four. There was the odd scampered single too as Pakistan began to lose the plot.
A superb flick through midwicket got Yuvraj to his half-century from 75 balls. Even the return of Yasir Arafat, who had taken three wickets in the morning, couldn’t stem the flow of runs.
A cut through cover took Yuvraj to his third century, all of them against his favourite opposition. There was a jubilant leap in the air and a prolonged hug from Ganguly, followed by some more breathtaking drives. Even with four men spread out to stop the cover drive, Yuvraj still found the boundary and a huge heave for six off Kaneria brought up the 200-run partnership.
The partnership was worth exactly 300 when Sami's perseverance was rewarded with a leading edge to point. By then, Yuvraj had amassed a fabulous 203-ball 169, and left the selectors with a massive headache before the Boxing Day Test. By the time he trudged off to a standing ovation, Yuvraj had made an irresistible case to be retained for the trial by Australia pace.
His knock contained 28 fours, with no less than ten of them in the cover region, and a six as the home side amassed 365 runs - the highest any team has managed on the first day of a Test in India.