| Ravindra Jadeja (right) celebrates with Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli. (PTI) |
Ranchi: Pushing the political turmoil that has dogged Jharkhand over the past few days into the backburner, Saturday was about celebrating their very own Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Virat Kohli may have made Dhoni’s hometown party all the more memorable with a scintillating unbeaten 77 off 79 balls, but it was the Team India captain’s winning runs that will be talked about during the next few days, if not years. The celebrations, no doubt, will continue late into the night.
The sell-out gathering at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association’s International Stadium had their moments to cherish. But nothing could have matched it once Dhoni walked out after being prodded by Suresh Raina to go in at No.5.
With 12 runs needed to reach the target of 156, Dhoni contributed an unbeaten 10 off 12 balls.
The crowd yearned for a six or the helicopter shot to finish off the game, but despite changing Dhoni bats to suit his needs, their wishes didn’t materialise.
Finally, Dhoni pulled Steven Finn to the square leg boundary to complete the seven-wicket victory and a 2-1 lead in the series. But it was Gautam Gambhir (33 off 53 balls) and Kohli who laid the foundation with a 67-run second wicket partnership.
In the process, India also climbed to the No.1 spot in the ODI rankings. It remains to be seen if they can hold on to the top spot at the end of the series.
Man of the Match Kohli’s return to form, his first half-century in one-dayers after six matches, could turn out to be a bad omen for England in the remaining two matches.
The International Cricket Council’s 2012 ODI Cricketer of the Year looked at ease striking nine boundaries and two sixes.
Standing serene at the crease, he drove and pulled majestically, picked the length unerringly and despatched it with aplomb. There were three consecutive boundaries in one Jade Dernbach over that set the momentum to the innings.
In between, there was Yuvraj Singh’s cameo (30 off 21 balls) set the stage on fire.
Dhoni had feared that the enormity of the occasion could distract their focus but his teammates’ clinical display was enough to leave him satisfied at the close.
Despite Kohli’s heroics, England will remain convinced that he was lucky to survive an lbw decision off Steven Finn’s first ball.
So desperate were England for the breakthrough, that Kevin Pietersen went up to umpire S. Ravi at the end of the over and protested.
At one point, England seemed to be appealing for everything they could bet on after wrongly being at the receiving end on a few occasions in this series.
Only Finn had looked wicket threatening, extracting appreciable pace and bounce to trouble the batsmen. Having found the gap through Ajinkya Rahane’s bat and pad, he was aiming for some more but the Indians put paid to his hopes.
Everything fell into place for Dhoni from the outset. He won the toss and quite predictably chose to field.
The decision was prompted by the unknown nature of the wicket and in anticipation of the evening dew that would have made it difficult for the spinners to grip the ball.
He was in turn helped by a disciplined attack that frustrated the England batting and forced them to commit mistakes.
The relatively new-look middle-order were clueless against the Indian spinners after the pace trio of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed and Ishant Sharma had wiped out the top-order.
There was bounce and just a hint of movement, which the Indians cleverly utilised to the full extent.
England’s ultra-defensive tactics was also to be blamed for the debacle as only 34 runs came off the first 10 overs of Powerplay. As England crumbled, the Indians revelled in the circumstances.
None of the Englishmen showed the zeal to gatecrash Dhoni’s party.
At times, it seemed their batsmen were as keen as the crowd to make it a day to remember!