India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (113 not out) gave his teammates a lesson in watchful batting on a damp, green pitch as he rescued India from 29 for five to clock 227 for six on the board in 50 overs.
Dhoni’s eighth One-Day International (ODI) century included his 7000th run in the format as he went about digging India out of the deep ditch carved by Pakistani quicks Junaid Khan (four for 43) and Mohammad Irfan (one for 58). The Indian skipper’s effort was phenomenal, when at one stage it did seem like the entire team would be bundled out under three figures.
Earlier, Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss and rightly elected to field first in overcast conditions. Incessant rains over the last few days had left the MA Chidambaram Stadium with a wet outfield and a pitch that was bound to keep low and provide a lot of assistance to the bowlers.
Junaid and Irfan made faultless use of the conditions as the top four Indian batsmen were out bowled within the first six overs, while Rohit Sharma (4) edged to the slips in the tenth over where Mohammad Hafeez took a fantastic diving catch.
At 29 for five, the crowd had gone silent and there were plenty of morose faces spotted on camera. A low-scoring game was on the cards given the conditions, but not even the most pessimistic among the spectators would have expected India to be bowled out under 100, which was where the match was going.
Out walked Dhoni at number seven, with a different plan in mind. Along with Suresh Raina (43) Dhoni set about on his task to steady the Indian ship against the menacing swing and movement off the Pakistani quicks.
Dhoni and Raina played astutely in difficult conditions and took India past the 100-run mark, before Raina was deceived by Mohammad Hafeez’s off-spin. With the score on 102 for six and 17 overs to go, Dhoni knew that the job wasn’t done. He needed to forge another partnership lower down the order, and what better man than Ravichandran Ashwin (31 not out) to do that with.
The off-spinner, who has impressed recently with his bat more than he has with his primary trade, dug in along with his captain and put on 113 runs for the seventh wicket as India got past the 200-run mark – something that would have seemed impossible a couple of hours ago.
Dhoni utilised 86 balls to get his half-century as he rightly went about rebuilding India’s innings with patience. But as the 40-over mark was passed, Dhoni decided to switch gears – and the Chidambaram Stadium was in for another treat from their IPL hero.
The helicopter blades were out as Dhoni displayed his vintage aggression and cheekiness and smacked the Pakistani bowlers around the ground. His eighth hundred in ODIs was probably his most important one till date and came about with a heave over the cover boundary for maximum. The effect of the draining Chennai heat was evident on Dhoni as he fell to his knees between overs, but was on his toes and whacking the ball with all his power while in play.
India reached a respectable 227 for six in their 50 overs as they wrested the initiative from the Pakistanis.
Brief Scores: India 227 for 6 in 50 overs (MS Dhoni 113*, Suresh Raina 43, R Ashwin 31*; Junaid Khan 4 for 43) vs Pakistan
First Published: December 30, 2012, 2:03 pm