Battle of No.6s: Pollard beats Dhoni

MS DhoniDhoni was new to the crease but had just cut and driven Kieron Pollard for two consecutive fours. (Reuters)

The first ball of the last over of the Chennai Super Kings' chase had a Mahendra Singh Dhoni maximum written all over it. All but.

Two deliveries earlier, Dhoni had targetted the deep midwicket stands to spoil medium-pacer Mitchell Johnson's over. That ball was a length delivery, but Dhoni held his backlift at the top of the arch for a fraction of a second longer, waited to pick the length and let fly. The six had reduced the equation to 13 off seven and Dhoni retained the strike by ambling across for a single with the No.10 Ankit Rajpoot after pushing the ball to long-on.

There was a sense of inevitability about his batting. Dhoni was at the crease with the intuition of a man who had been in a similarly difficult situation many times before, and had more often than not found a way out.

At the end of the 14th over, the Mumbai think-tank had called for the strategic time-out. Dhoni was new to the crease but he had just cut and driven Kieron Pollard for two consecutive fours. Chennai still needed 69 off the last six overs. But Dhoni, with sixes in the 17th and 18th overs — the former bowled by Pollard and yielding 17 runs — brought the equation very much into his zone.

MS's zone

With six balls to go and the Super Kings just two mighty heaves away, Ricky Ponting gave Munaf Patel the responsibility to stop the dangerous Dhoni. But Patel seemed to have pitched it right in Dhoni's territory — at a length, on middle-and-leg. As the home team skipper swung the willow, and ball sailed towards the fence, Dhoni and the partisan home crowd would have deducted six from the run-required column.

But that the deep midwicket fence at that moment was unusually high — 6'5'' inches to be precise. For manning the rope was Pollard — tall, athletic and with a gifted sense of timing. Pollard leapt high into the air and plucked a catch out of thin air. The Super Kings skipper was almost ready to turn back to get ready to face the next ball but he grimaced in disappointment as Pollard turned the match around. With Dhoni gone, Chennai eventually fell nine short.

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