Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli return to the pavilion after India’s victory, at the Chinnaswamy, on Monday. (AFP)
Bangalore: The jump in the air, the clenched fist and kissing the crest in the helmet… These have all become trademark gestures of Virat Kohli whenever he achieves a landmark.
On Monday, Kohli’s reaction was more reserved after Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit a boundary and a six to notch up a thrilling five-wicket win, in the second Test, against New Zealand.
There was just a high-five from the new No.5 of Indian cricket. His knocks have so far been statement enough that he is ready to begin his climb for the lofty heights set by none other than a VVS Laxman.
At the end of the third day, he had said that he enjoys playing under pressure. His match-winning 51 not out, which came on the back of a fighting century in the first innings, speaks volumes about the man’s self-belief and temperament.
After the New Zealand bowlers cleaned up the Indian top-order and were threatening to run through the line-up, Kohli took the responsibility of steering his team to the target of 261. He received able support from Dhoni, who played aggressively for his unbeaten 48. In the process, India registered their fifth highest successful run-chase and made a clean sweep of the two-Test series against the Black Caps.
Dhoni has now led India to victory in 19 of 39 Tests he captained. With 14 wins, he has now become India’s most successful captain at home, bettering Mohammed Azharuddin’s 13.
Though a five-wicket win might sound effortless, it wasn’t so in reality. With half the team back at the pavilion at 166, it was important that the last recognised pair of Kohli and Dhoni show character.
And they did that putting up a 96-run partnership for the sixth wicket. While Dhoni played with flair and flamboyance, Kohli showed right application and attitude to tackle the New Zealand bowlers, who were bowling exceptionally well.
Kohli withered the storm with tenacity and a rock-solid defence. He restrained himself from playing the shots and concentrated on steadying the ship. After negotiating the first 15 balls without scoring a run, he played a handsome cover-drive off the bowling of Trent Boult to get off the mark.
He then took the bowlers to the cleaners, hitting Tim Southee for three boundaries in an over — the first through midwicket, the next one a cover drive and that followed by a straight drive.
Dhoni, on the other hand, attacked from the beginning and kept the scoreboard ticking with quick singles and twos. He started and ended his innings with slog sweeps off the bowling off-spinner Jeetan Patel.
The New Zealand captain also erred in taking Patel off the attack when the spinner was looking dangerous, troubling the batsmen with his flight and turns. Instead, he attacked the duo with pace from both ends.
Apart from this mistake, the Black Caps did exceedingly well in the field even when the Indian openers, particularly Sehwag, started in a reckless and an abrasive manner.
The pair not only punished the wayward deliveries but also dispatched the good length balls to the boundary. In the process, the opening pair compiled their first 50-run partnership in the last 12 innings.
Sehwag started in his typical fashion. Despite, a few hit-and-misses, he took India off to a flier, scoring run-a-ball for his 37. But he undid all the good work by playing a needless shot. Gambhir, on the other hand, looked comfortable at the crease until he edged Boult’s away going delivery to Ross Taylor at first slip.
The dismissal of both the openers pegged back the hosts, stalling chase for the moment.
It was only after lunch that Cheteshwar Pujara and Sachin Tendulkar started to blossom to stitch together a partnership of 69. But just when it seemed that runs were pouring in for India, a downpour stopped the play.
Upon resumption, Sachin seemed to continue from where he left, but he was castled by a cross seam delivery from Southee. It definitely seemed to be a concern as The Master was bowled for the third time in three innings with an incoming delivery. The ball brushed the pads before hitting the wicket.
Earlier, it was not the ideal way that New Zealand would have liked to end the innings at 248, thus setting India a 261-run target. Patel, who added 12 runs to his overnight score, became the victim of umpire Ian Gould’s poor decision when he was adjudged caught behind off Zaheer Khan, when the ball had missed the bat by a proverbial mile.