Dhoni turns back the clock
The similarity with the 2011 World Cup final was uncanny. Nuwan Kulasekara bowled a length ball on the stumps which was dispatched deep into the stands over long-on in one of the most enduring images in Indian cricket. A lot has changed since that Mumbai night. MS Dhoni has shown signs that he is a mere mortal after all. The grapevine has it that his superpowers are on the wane. But once in a while, he comes up with feats like the one on Wednesday when his 34-ball 70 turned the clock back and fashioned a victory which seemed nearly impossible at one stage.
For a man who was struggling with a back injury a little over a week ago, what MSD managed attested his street-smartness and game-sense. He got himself in, at a reasonable strike rate, and quickly figured out which bowlers to target. Coming in at 74/4 with a target of 206, he developed a quick liking for the innocuous left-arm spin of Pawan Negi and dispatched him over the leg-side off only the second ball he faced.
With Ambati Rayudu going strong at the other end, Dhoni played out the dangerous Yuzvendra Chahal, who dismissed Sam Billings and Ravindra Jadeja, with big turning leg-breaks. Once he was out of the picture and RCB short of bowling options, the CSK skipper knew the others were there for the taking. At one stage, they needed 99 in 36 balls but Dhoni excels in the art of the possible. The short-arm jabs were back in vogue and Anderson felt the full brunt. Mohammad Siraj does not have the experience to cope with such situations, and even though Rayudu was run out at a crucial stage, Dwayne Bravo came in to hit the crucial boundaries in the later stages. But there as no doubt who as the architect of this famous 5-wicket victory.
De Villiers special
Shardul Thakur is a quality paceman and has recently been elevated to the Indian team, performing quite well in the limited-overs games on the South African tour. Earlier on Wednesday, he had got rid of Virat Kohli when the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper holed out to mid-on trying to go for a big hit. That over was also one of those rarities in T20 cricket – a maiden. But halfway through his third over, the quick bowler from Mumbai would have realised that cricket is a fickle game. His first ball was a length delivery which was launched beyond the deep midwicket fence. The second was a knuckle ball that was just a bit too full, and was launched straight down the ground for a maximum. The third was the piece de resistance. Thakur gave a bit of width to the batsman and the full ball was launched beyond the deep cover boundary for a six. From the leg-side to straight down the ground to the off-side, Thakur would have learnt what it is like to bowl to the freak going by the name of AB de Villers. That RCB are not scraping the bottom of the IPL points table owes much to de Villiers. The team’s two victories coming into Wednesday’s game had come when the South African had gone berserk in chases that looked tricky at once stage. And despite Kohli being the reigning deity for RCB fans, it won’t be blasphemous to contend that de Villiers is more integral to the team’s fortunes this seasons. At the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, in the Southern Derby against Chennai Super Kings, the Protea star proved yet again that when he is on song, any captain or bowler would feel powerless. The South African came to the crease in the fifth over after Kohli’s dismissal and faced a different bowler for the next six overs. “I was feeling a bit dodgy at the start of my innings,” de Villiers said after his 30-ball 68, out of which the first four were dots. But not many who witnessed the carnage would agree with that assessment. The Chinnaswamy is quite a small ground, which would explain the much higher number of sixes than fours. But de Villiers was pretending as if the boundaries did not exist. He hit Harbhajan Singh over deep midwicket, then over extra cover and then made room to slam him square for a boundary. Jadeja was swept for six in the next over, before de Villiers turned his attention to compatriot Imran Tahir.
The first ball was deftly reverse-swept for four, followed by a sweep for six. The batsman stepped across his stumps on the next ball and deposited it over long-on. But Tahir would have his revenge later, inducing a miscue from de Villiers off a wide delivery that spun away even further, getting Anderson off the next ball for good measure. The impetus was in danger of being lost before Mandeep Singh and Washington Sundar got them beyond 200.