Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni added 118 runs for his sixth wicket    AFP
Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni added 118 runs for his sixth wicket AFP

MS Dhoni knows his role. The blade that blasted helicopter shots in abundance has withered a bit, but his knack of hatching game plans is as eminent as ever. Knowing India were staring down the barrel and Hardik Pandya s belligerence was the only ammunition that could shiver the Australians, Dhoni contently dealt in singles.

The staunch Pandya wrought the Indian innings from ruins. After Australia disintegrated India s first 5 wickets for a mere 87 runs, the lower-order duo of Dhoni and Pandya bettered India s script and launched a counterattack.

The shot selection displayed by the top-order invited the major downfall.

Virat Kohli produced an encore of his score that he had registered in the opener of the Test series earlier this year: he perished for a duck. Trying to scythe an away-going delivery over backward-point, Kohli found Maxwell timing his jumping to perfection and clinging onto it with one hand. It was almost a reminiscence of Jonty Rhodes’ spectacular catch in 1992 World Cup.

Before that, Ajinkya Rahane had tried to do the same: playing away from his body, he induced an edge behind the wickets.

Feeding on his favourite hunt, Rohit Sharma discouraged the Australians with a counterpunch, not hindered by the brief phase of turmoil. However, Manish Pandey could not hold his nerves at the other end and became Nathan Coulter-Nile s second victim. It was another edge to the wicketkeeper.

India found themselves lost in the woods at 11 for 3, off 5.3 overs.

Lucky for Rohit that Kedar Jadhav did not look flummoxed by the situation and played his natural game. The earlier fall of wickets had given an impression that the Chennai track was too fast for the Indians, that they were too late in executing their shorts.

Jadhav, proving us wrong, manipulated the nature of the track to his advantage, peppering boundaries and agitating Australia s momentum. However, the Kangaroos galloped their way to another wicket: Rohit, untimely pulling, holed out to Coulter-Nile in the deep.

In came MS Dhoni, and the shouts of Thala echoed the land of the Godly Rajnikanth.

Maintaining his reputation, Jadhav was involved in a mix-up. Dhoni had given up, but luck did not elude him. It was a reprieve for both Dhoni and the deafening crowd. Rightfully, Dhoni stared at his teammate, signalling his mistake in silence and deadly glare. Jadhav, however, refused to maintain eye-contact. He knew the wrath he could have been buried under.

In the same over, Jadhav played an uncharacteristic stroke. Instead of leaving a short-pitched ball, he pulled to mid-wicket. He added 40 runs before leaving India at 87 for 5.

Australia bowled an array of lengths, ensuring India keep guessing. Having already dismembered India s half the side within 22 overs, Australia s task had gotten easier.

Dhoni was in no hurry. He made sure Pandya wasn t either. The pair dulled things down, sucking all the zeal the oppositions had set their feet with. And as the momentum swung back to them, Dhoni strategically let Pandya go all guns blazing.

The easiest of targets was leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who had not rendered threatening turn. Using the long handle to annihilating effect, two of Pandya s sixes hit the roof. This was the fourth time in international cricket this year that Pandya had hit someone for 3 or more consecutive sixes. The first three victims were: Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and then Malinda Pushpakumara.

After Pandya brought up his fifty off 48 deliveries, he further went bonkers and reduced the Australians to nothingness. In the pursuit of continuing the destruction, Pandya top-edged at short third-man and ended his magnificence at 83 off 66.

The hopes then were pinned on Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and the lad did not let his team down. Along with Dhoni, he stitched 72 runs for the seventh wicket. However, the highlight of the innings came in the death overs. Dhoni unleashed all his might and compiled those nostalgic hoicks into the stand. And when Dhoni fires on all cylinders, the boundary lines seem useless.

Brief scores:

India 281 for 7 (Hardik Pandya 83, MS Dhoni 79; Nathan Coulter-Nile 3 for 44) vs Australia.

Full scorecard