India vs Sri Lanka, Jaipur, October 31, 2005
The Dhoni Blitzkrieg
Mahendra Singh Dhoni launched an incredible assault on the Sri Lankan bowling which they will never forget for the rest of their lives. He pulverized them with ten sixes, all of them sailing well over the boundary. Astoundingly enough he didn’t throw his wicket away even when he was suffering from cramps but was unbeaten at the end and finished the match by depositing the ball into the midwicket stand as a final flourish. Anyone who had seen his breakout innings against
On most occasions Sangakkara’s effort would have been a match winning one, but today was Dhoni’s day. The Lankans would have been very confident of a win after Tendulkar chased a wide one from Vaas in the very first over, only for Sangakkara to come up with a brilliant diving catch. Dhoni was sent in at number three, and he started the proceedings with a six over cover off a slightly wide delivery from Vaas. It was an astonishing shot, but he repeated it again in Vaas' next over to prove that it was no fluke. When he launched into the replacement bowler, Maharoof, for another six, straight back over his head, one began to sense that something special was happening. He had hit 3 sixes in his first 15 balls. He disturbed his copy book with a pulled four of Fernando, before he launched him for another six. Four sixes and one four and he was only on 32! Sehwag acknowledged the Dhoni impact and began to take singles to give Dhoni the strike. Attapatu was in a quandary as to when to use the second and third power play. He didn’t use it after the first 10 overs, as he brought Murali and Chandana in to try and get a break through. It wasn’t working as Dhoni started collecting fours and singles. Finally Murali struck in the 15th over, removing Sehwag when his sweep missed the well flighted doosra and he was declared leg before.
Dravid was in next and scored at a brisk rate as Attapatu employed the 2nd power play from the 17-21st over. Dravid was telling Dhoni to use the power plays well, but he needn’t have because Dhoni with a powerful sweep of Chandana, was still clearing the boundary. Dhoni and Dravid added 86 runs in 12 overs in which Dravid's contribution was only 28. Dhoni reached his 100 off 85 balls and celebrated by cocking his bat like a rifle and firing it into the Indian dressing room. The assault continued and the third power play was delayed until Dravid was dismissed off a return catch as he tried to work Murali’s doosra to the onside. Yuvraj came in to see Dhoni enjoying the field restriction for another 5 overs, but quickly applied himself to the task. He made a brisk 18 before he was bowled as he lazily played back to an off break from Dilshan without moving his front foot.
Venugopal Rao finally got his first bat in the series and came out to face the last over off Murali. He managed to read and safely negotiate a couple of doosras. By this time Sehwag was running for Dhoni as he had cramped up a quite a bit and his movements were restricted. Dhoni reined himself in with a few singles as he took a breather. Rao was tied down by some tight bowling from Maharoof before he danced down the track and smote Dilshan for a six. He then square drove Maharoof for a four but the bowler came back well by going past his outside edge a couple of times.Atapattu brought Chandana back into the attack to further ruin his bowling figures, and Dhoni obliged by deciding to end the match in a hurry with sixes number 8 and 9 in that over. Venugopal Rao got strike in the next over with only 2 runs required for the win, and Sehwag had a quiet word with Rao probably telling him to ease up so that Dhoni can finish off the match. Rao let a few balls from Maharoof sail past outside off stump and Dhoni promptly finished the match in the next over with his 10th six of the match off a hapless Tilekaratne Dilshan.
The entire Indian team came out to congratulate Dhoni for his stupendous innings. The Rajastan Cricket Association was so enamored by Dhoni’s knock that they decided to give him a cheque for Rs. 10 lakhs in addition to the man of the match award. As Dravid said in his post match comments, it was a privilege to see Dhoni bat.
3-0 in a 7 match series, the vice is tightening around Sri Lanka.