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Dhoni blinder lifts India to 303

Posted on October 19, 2013 by Selby There have been 0 comments

Cricket Memorabilia from the India v Australia series will be available later this week specifically MS Dhoni signed cricket bat.

India were 76 for 4, then 154 for 6. But they had MS Dhoni, and they ended on 303 for 9. The India captain twisted his ankle in the 14th over while turning for a second run. He hadn't even faced a ball yet. He motored to 50 off 77, and accelerated to his ninth ODI hundred in the next 30. Dhoni's favourite territory, the final stage of the innings, was yet to arrive. The Australia captain dropped him first ball of the penultimate over. Dhoni pulverized 34 off the final 12 deliveries to end unbeaten on 139. Even if it was normal service coming from Dhoni, that did not make it any less mind-boggling.

The last time Dhoni made an ODI century, in December 2012, he took India from 29 for 5 against Pakistan to 227 for 6. Helping him that day was R Ashwin, who made an unbeaten 31 in a century stand. Ashwin was around today as well, showing superb calm in adding 76 for the seventh wicket with his captain. Before that, Virat Kohli had been an equal partner in a fifth-wicket stand of 72, but had fallen against the run of play for his third successive score of 50-plus this series.

Admirable as these twin acts were, they were supporting ones. The stage belonged to Dhoni, who once again showed the entire range of his limited-overs batsmanship - from precisely-judged singles to hustling twos, from deftly placed boundaries to the late, towering sixes. And yes, he turned down three singles in the last two overs with Vinay Kumar at the other end.

Dhoni hit one four in his first 67 deliveries. He ended with 12 fours and five sixes. Dhoni took little risk against the left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty when India were rebuilding. Doherty, with figures of 9-0-35-0, was held back for one over, which he came on to complete as the 41st. Dhoni pulled and lofted him for successive boundaries off the last two balls of the over. James Faulkner's first eight overs went for 33, including just one run off the 46th. Dhoni hung back in the crease at the end, pulling out scythes, slices, slogs, helicopter-swings. Faulker's last two overs had gone for 32. Between those two overs, the threat of Dhoni had made even as experienced a man as Shane Watson bowl two wides.

Before all this Dhoni frenzy, India's specialist batsmen had been roughed up for the second time in three games by Australian pace and bounce. A bit of grass and bounce in Mohali and Mitchell Johnson had reduced them to 76 for 4.

Suresh Raina, the new India No 4, looked thoroughly uncomfortable against Johnson, who was brought back soon after the left-hander came in at 37 for 2. Raina hopped, jabbed and missed. He tried hooking but could not bat to ball. When he did, off another attempted hook, he only edged to slip. Yuvraj Singh walked in on his home ground and walked back first ball, his dismissal a replay of the manner he fell to Johnson in the first ODI - wafting at a short of a length delivery away from the body and nicking it to the wicketkeeper.

After their 176-run opening stand in Jaipur, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan didn't lasted long. Dhawan went caught-behind to a Clint McKay rising across him and squaring him up. Rohit tried forcing a front-foot pull off Watson, but the ball reared up quicker and higher than he anticipated, and a top-edge was taken by slip running back.

Australia hadn't even been too disciplined with their lines and lengths, but only Kohli was able to take advantage of that. He looked every inch a batsman who had reeled off the fastest century for his country three days ago. He was ready to pounce on even slightly wide deliveries, and his timing ensured even some reasonably good ones went for fours. His driving on the off side stood out, as also his eagerness to take singles when wickets were falling. Kohli had chugged to 68 before he nicked part-timer Glenn Maxwell behind. India still had more than 20 overs to bat out, but they also had Dhoni.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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