Durban, Dec 8
“The bowlers did well. They learnt from the last time, but the batsmen played too many shots. I think the shot selection was not right,” Dhoni said in the post-match press conference.
India gave a pathetic batting display on seam-friendly conditions to suffer an embarrassing 134-run defeat in the second one-dayer. The hosts rode on the two openers, Quinton de Kock (106) and Hashim Amla (100), to pile up 280 for six in the allotted 49 overs before bundling out the hapless visitors for 146 in 35.1 overs on a gloomy day at the Kingsmead.
“The SA attack are very accurate and they keep bowling in the same areas and that’s what makes them different. Overall, there was not much for the bowlers, not much seam or swing, so that’s why I say they bowled well. The pitch was a nice one and the target was a decent one, and we didn’t execute our plans with the bat,” Dhoni said.
“I don’t get too much worried about the losses, how we stand up from here is what I want to see. That will test our character.”
South African captain A B de Villiers was happy to see his team dominate the world number 1 ODI side.
“It was a very emotional day (referring to Nelson Mandela’s death recently) and I am glad we came out here and played good cricket,” de Villiers said.
“We have been searching for consistency for a long time and to do it against the No 1 team is a job well done. Quinton and Hash have been very good up front, we struggled towards the end. I though 230-240 was par score, so to get 280 was very good.
About de Kock, who scored his second successive ton, the skipper only had words of praise.
“Quinton de Kock is a very aggressive player, the day I met him, I thought this guy will go far.”
Man of the Match de Kock said, “It’s very satisfying.
During tough times, people hate you, so in times like these, you have to enjoy yourselves. I was not so happy to take Dhoni’s catch because at that stage, we were looking to get to the 20-over mark and I thought we didn’t need a wicket then.”
Dhoni said: “In both matches in this series so far, they have done well and given a really good start, but in this game we were able to get to the middle order to some extent because they were not able to score 300-plus runs.
“At the moment, South Africa have the right kind of bowlers and the right batsmen.”
To counter them, Dhoni had deployed spinners as early as the 11th over, and brought on Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli as well. This turned out to be a ploy in the end, as he was able to use his bowling attack more effectively in the later stages of the South African innings.
“The wicket was slowing a bit. So, using the part-timers gives me a few more overs of specialist bowlers a bit later on,” said the skipper, explaining his move.
“It seemed at that time that the batsmen were not really looking for the big strokes and I thought I can get a few overs off the part timers and then look to attack with the spinners. Or use the pace bowlers, if the pacers go for runs.”
“To some extent I didn’t need them (spinners) in the last few overs because fast bowlers did well apart from the couple of overs that went for runs. So, overall as a bowling unit I think we bowled well,” he added.
Standing apart from the bowling unit, and indeed the entire team, was Mohammad Shami. He took for 3 for 48 here at Durban, to go along with 3 for 68 in the first ODI. And Dhoni deemed him the one big positive of the tour so far.
“He bowls with the seam upright and he bowls the right line and length. Even today when there was a bit of reverse swing he bowled the right length, and that’s something very crucial. I think he has adapted very well. And the more he is playing the better he is getting, so that’s a big positive for us,” said the skipper.
Dhoni added that “While the bowling may have worked on this day, owing to a slower pitch than in Johannesburg, it cannot be denied that 281 was a gettable target.
Even so, Dhoni looked to defend his batsmen and said that team India will be looking to ‘continue playing their best XI’ in the third ODI at Centurion (on December 11), rather than experiment or give other squad members a chance in the dead encounter.
“When we travel outside India, people talk about short bowling because in the subcontinent we are not used to that kind of bowling. So what we have seen is that sometimes you play a few shots and it pays off, then the opposition has to think where they need to bowl.
“This is what happens in the Champions Trophy. At other times, you play those big shots and end up losing wickets. It is a part and parcel of the cricket and we will have to accept it,” he opined.
The Men in Blue may have won in England back in the summer, but it will quickly become a distant memory if the tour continues to go this way. Yet, Dhoni sounded confident that this ODI series is a ‘one-off contest’ and there is much to learn ahead.
“You win a few and you lose a few. What’s important is that you keep learning. The bowlers learnt from the first game and bowled better in this game. As a batting unit also, we need to learn quite a few things and keep going onto the field,” he signed off.
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