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Child’s play for Dhoni & Co.

Ravichandran Ashwin

Dhaka: As many as 16 boundaries and five sixes were hit by the Indian batsmen on Friday night, at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. None of them came from Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s bat.

Yet, the best shot of the Indian innings was played by the captain when on the last delivery of the 19th over, bowled by Beuran Hendricks, Dhoni presented a dead bat to a shortish ball.

India were tied with South Africa on 172 at that stage. At Hendricks’s pace, Dhoni could have pulled it gleefully. If not, he could have easily played it to some corner of the ground and could have taken the winning single.

But he didn’t. He wanted Virat Kohli, who has made brilliance look like an ordinary adjective, to do the honour.

Kohli, Dhoni’s most trusted and efficient general, obliged by sending the very first delivery of the last over, by Dale Steyn, crashing through the mid-wicket boundary for his fifth four.

If you are wondering how all these make Dhoni’s defensive block the best shot by an Indian on the day, imagine what supreme confidence can allow a captain to gift the opportunity of scoring the winning runs to his best player of the day. And it was the semi-final of the World T20, not an inconsequential third match of a four-game series.

Don’t you want to finish the job as quickly as possible in such a marquee match?

Not when you are playing as good as the current Indian team in the ongoing tournament.

One can’t blame Dhoni for toying with the target, because at the end of the day, they proved that even a 173-run chase is child’s play for them. The six-wicket victory came with five balls to spare.

The thunderstorm never really hit Dhaka on Friday night. The weatherman may have goofed it up, but the cricketing forecasts came true — India, the pre-match favourites, won handsomely to book a final date against Sri Lanka, on Sunday; South Africa who came into the match with the tag of ‘chokers’, left with their reputation intact.

After totalling 172 for four against an Indian bowling attack which has done splendidly in this tournament, the Proteas had almost won half the battle. Then their bowlers kept up the pressure to push India to a stage where they needed 60 runs from the last six overs. Steyn still had three overs left and logic said that the Indians wouldn’t find it easy.

Steyn bowled the 15th over giving away 9 runs. Leggie Imran Tahir, who bowled the 16th, conceded 10. With 40 required off the last four, one expected Steyn to bowl the 17th over.

But South Africa captain Faf du Plessis brought in Wayne Parnell. The 17th over cost the Proteas 17 runs. After that, they never recovered and India never looked back.

Interestingly, almost every Indian batsmen contributed in the triumphant chase. Rohit Sharma (24) and Ajinkya Rahane (32) gave them a decent start; Yuvraj Singh scored 18, but didn’t waste balls taking 17 deliveries; Suresh Raina pepped up the chase with a 10-ball 21; Dhoni ensured that the wining run came from the most deserving bat.

But one man stood out, and not unusually it was Kohli again.

Kohli’s unbeaten 44-ball 72 was perfect, his strokes as confident as that of a master artist. He paced it perfectly, patient as a monk in the beginning and ferocious as Thursday’s hailstone shower towards the end. It couldn’t have been better. Or may be, some day, Kohli will better that.

Earlier, the Proteas innings revolved around some watchful-yet-aggressive batting by captain Du Plessis and JP Duminy, a veteran of many a battle.

While Faf’s 41-ball 58 provided them with the platform to be brave in the second half of the innings, Duminy’s unbeaten 40-ball 45 not only propelled the score past 150, it also held the batting together never allowing it to lose its way.

Offie Ravichandran Ashwin was again the best Indian bowler on the park. He bowled four overs and got a wicket each in three of them.

Leggie Amit Mishra had an off day, going wicketless in his three overs which cost India 36 runs.

Sunday will see a repeat of the 2011 World Cup final. The Indian fans obviously won’t mind if India repeats what they did three years back. Mumbai or Dhaka or Timbuctoo, it’s immaterial.