Ravindra Jadeja (above) and MS Dhoni gave India a flourishing end after they were down 154 for five © Getty Images
By Abhijit Banare
Jan 28, 2014
MS Dhoni (79 not out) and Ravindra Jadeja‘s (62 not out) unbeaten partnership of 127 runs in just 101 balls powered India to 278 for five against New Zealand in the fourth One-Day International at Hamilton on Tuesday. The Kiwis managed to keep the Indians in check for most part of the innings but the explosive sixth-wicket partnership gave India a good total to defend to stay alive in the series.
A lot was spoken about Dhoni’s stubbornness to change his strategies and it was expected to continue on the must-win encounter. But the Indian skipper managed to surprise everyone by dropping Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina, the two players who have looked circumspect in the past few matches. It mean Stuart Binny (200th ODI player to debut) and Ambati Rayudu find their opportunity to make a mark. Dhoni even won the toss again and chose to bat. The start of the batting too received a facelift with the in-form Virat Kohli walking alongside Rohit Sharma. Apart from India’s selection, the visitors got another boost with Corey Anderson rested for all-rounder James Neesham.
While the changes looked fresh, the performance remained unchanged as the short ball curse continued for India. Kohli was the first to perish miscuing a pull shot to James Neesham at mid-wicket. Ajinkya Rahane who walked in at No 3 too squandered his chance going after a short one from Kyle Mills caught at deep fine-leg. India would have soon be three down when Ross Taylor floored a regulation slip catch offered by Rohit off Tim Southee in the eighth over.
The stage was perfect for India to go down the same road they did in the previous matches, but the fresh vigour of Rayudu along with Rohit making his innings count turned things around. The duo continued with a sense of cautiousness before Rayudu eased in with his elegant wristwork. He flicked with confidence earning a couple of boundaries. Meanwhile, Rohit too turned the pressure back on to the bowlers stepping out and smashing two sixes. The run-rate which was lagging behind since the start of the innings picked up its pace.
Rayudu who had replaced Dhawan, played fearlessly coming down the track even against the pacers. He played his trademark late cut shots and skipper Brendon McCullum even placed a gully to restrain the right-hander. But it was Rayudu’s over-confidence did him in when he went after a pull shot and miscued it to Luke Ronchi behind the wicket. While Rayudu departed for 37, Rohit completed his 21st ODI half-century.
The Hamilton pitch was on the slower side and the batsmen found it difficult to time their shots. Kohli and Rayudu’s dismissal were testimony to that. While the change of pace could have done the trick, the Kiwis allowed the partnership for the third wicket to build up. Rayudu and Rohit’s 79-run stand had brought India back in contention. Soon Dhoni and Rohit bludgeoned the Kiwis with big hits including one clobbered out of the park by the Indian skipper. Ahead of the batting powerplay India had the right pair to power them.
Yet India squandered the opportunity when Rohit was caught down the leg-side by Ronchi for 79 and Ravichandran Ashwin, promoted up the order started off with a silky cover-drive only to perish few balls later caught at thirdman for five. At 151 for five, the Kiwis fancied their chances to clean up India to a below par score.
But Jadeja, walking in with a renewed vigour after that sensational innings at Auckland and the ever-brutal Dhoni picked up from there. Staying till the end of the batting powerplay, they unleashed themselves soon after. Post the 40th over, the duo scored aggressively. Dhoni’s attacking style is known to everyone, but the smart late cuts and lofted strokes from Jadeja were a delight to watch.
Within quick time, the Kiwi bowlers found themselves under pressure. Towards the end, it was Dhoni who looked subdued in comparison to Jadeja’s power-hitting. Skipper McCullum too missed a trick by not keeping the overs of his strike bowler Tim Southee intact, instead an inexperienced Hamish Bennett had to bowl. And Bennett was smashed comfortably by the two well-set batsmen. Dhoni completed his half-century and Jadeja too completed his second fifty in as many matches.
It may not be a daunting total on this ground, but the way they finished the innings will keep their morale high. It’s time the bowlers deliver and this time Dhoni has an additional option of Binny as the fifth bowler.
India 278 for 5 in 50 overs (Rohit Sharma 79, Ambati Rayudu 37, MS Dhoni 79*, Ravindrwa Jadeja 62*; Tim Southee 2 for 36) vs New Zealand.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)