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Monday, February 13, 2012

Dhoni keeps his best until last over to hit India to ODI win over Australia

India 6/270 (49.4 ov, Gambhir 92, Dhoni 44*) def Australia 6/269 (50ov Hussey 72, Forrest 66) by 4 wickets with 2 balls remaining: TriSeries match 4/12 at Adelaide Oval. Australia has 9 points, India 8, Sri Lanka 0.

M S Dhoni's backfoot drive for 6 off Clint McKay was as remarkable a stroke as I can remember, not only for its execution but for the context in which it was made.

It cleared the long straight Adelaide Oval boundary (Channel 9's technology measured it at 112m) and it brought India, needing 12 off the last four balls of the match, back with a chance of grasping a victory. Which Dhoni did in two further deliveries: an above waist no ball from which he was caught on the boundary after running 2 (+1 for the noball), followed by a slower one which he pulled to leg for 3.

You can see the six on the Fox Sports highlightsand on You Tube (where it should remain for a long, long time).

What was also amazing was that this blow was Dhoni's only boundary in his 44*/58b:  his strike rate was the second slowest of the top seven in the order, each of whom reached double figures. As the asking rate ballooned out in the final overs it seemed that Dhoni was was either supremely confident, or foolish. I thought the latter until the onslaught.

Yes, there were 99 other overs bowled in the match. Australia won the toss and batted in ideal conditions: mid 20s, blue sky. For some reason Ricky Ponting opened the batting instead of Matthew Wade, whose name was on the scoreboard (and who IMO should have done the job). Ponting went cheaply (though a straight drive for 4 showed a glimpse of his class), Michael Clarke 38/43b (5x4) breezily outscored David Warner until  the latter was run out in a mixup, then Clarke himself was bowled stepping away and playing on: 3/81.

Peter Forrest, 66/83b (2x6 , 5x4) on ODI debut, and David Hussey 72/76b (5x4) restored the situation by adding 98 together, then Dan Christian biffed 39/36b (2x4) before being run out, but the lower order were kept in check by tight Indian bowling and fielding, so that the 300 which at one point looked possible and the 280 which looked likely didn't eventuate.

When India, who rested Sachin Tendulkar, batted it was Gautam Gambhir's fluent 92/111b (7x4) which for 34 overs and 178 runs put India on the road to victory,. Then Dhoni joined Suresh Raina and moved steadily, too steadily it seemed, towards a possible win. Australia were often lacklustre in the field, though there were some good catches and saves, and after Xavier Doherty, who I was surprised to see bowling at the death,  conceded only 4 in the 49th over it looked all over for India.

Then came that over...and that six...

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