Hyderabad: Yuvraj Singh made a brilliant comeback into first-class arena as he smashed an unbeaten century for North Zone against Central on the first day of a semi-final match in the Duleep Trophy here.
At stumps, North were in commanding position having scored 346 for 4, riding on Yuvraj's superb unbeaten 133 while skipper Shikhar Dhawan also made his presence felt with an innings of 121. The innings on Sunday will certainly end any doubts whatsoever about Yuvraj's fitness and his ability to withstand the rigours of longer version of the game after recovering from rare germ cell cancer.
He played only 152 deliveries during his knock and hit 20 boundaries and two huge sixes off discarded India veteran Murali Kartik. Both sixes were sent soaring over deep mid-wicket and the second one saw the talented left-hander reach three-figure mark. This is Yuvraj's 19th first-class century but certainly one he would remember for a long time to come.
There were no demons in the 22-yard strip at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Uppal and Yuvraj didn't for once looked like in any sort of trouble as he kept on punishing the Central bowlers. Credit should also be given to Dhawan who scored his second Duleep Trophy century of the season. His 200-ball innings contained 14 hits to the fence and, more importantly, added 160 runs with his senior partner for the third wicket in just over 20 overs.
Such was Yuvraj's dominance that he came to bat only in the 53rd over of the innings which was well after lunch but took on the bowlers from the very beginning. The trio of Praveen Kumar (2 for 72), Bhuvenshwar Kumar (0 for 63) and Rituraj Singh (0 for 67) were treated with equal disdain while Kartik was singled out for special treatment.
The 36-year-old Railways left-arm spinner Kartik, who is not known to perform well on good batting tracks, was hammered for 92 runs in 19 overs as Yuvraj sent him on a leatherhunt.
The two towering sixes he hit off Kartik were majestic as the veteran bowler looked clueless during Yuvraj-Dhawan partnership. Yuvraj's innings can give the selectors another option in the Indian Test team's middle-order. With his handy left-arm spin to complement his elegant batting, the day might not be far when Yuvraj might be seen playing Test matches where he badly wants to make a mark.
At least Sunday's innings was an indicator of what can be expected from this enormously gifted cricketer.
Brief Score: North Zone 346 for 4 (Yuvraj Singh batting 133, Shikhar Dhawan 121, Praveen Kumar 2/72) vs Central Zone.