India vs Pak ODI: Itís over well before itís over

Sports

Dhoni is a stickler for keeping a right-left combination going in the middle, but Junaid Khan, pitching the ball on middle and getting it to straighten from over the wicket, was equally effective against either type of batsmen. Sehwag, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj, all succumbed to variants of the same ball.

It proved so effective that Irfan was persuaded to try, and was rewarded with the wicket of Gambhir. All batsmen groped for the angle and had their stumps splayed. Rohit Sharma got suckered into playing for the swing only for Junaid to move it the other way, and was out caught at slips. From 17/0 in 3.4 overs, India were 29/5 in 9.4.

With the new rules decreeing that five fielders have to stay within the 30-yard circle during the entire innings, Dhoni and Suresh Raina would ideally have looked to score at a rate fast enough to set the side up for a final assault. The early wickets ensured that, despite not losing a wicket in the stretch, the run rate, which was 3 at the end of the mandatory powerplay (10th over), was 3.09 after 33, before the batting powerplay was effected.

One-man show

Raina, and later Ashwin, watched from the other end as Dhoni battled the track, the bowling and the sapping humidity in an innings that showed why he is one of the best pacers of an ODI innings. The 73 he added with Raina for the sixth wicket came at three an over and it was the left-hander who played the dominant role, scoring 37 of those runs, to Dhoni's 22.

The captain, dropped on 16 off Mohammad Hafeez, concentrated on survival. Raina fell in the second ball of first over of the batting powerplay, the 33rd and Dhoni still held back. Then, he changed gears.

... contd.

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