Dhoni stars in a last-ball finish

It was quite fitting that Mahendra Singh Dhoni himself struck the winning blow with a boundary after steering the Rising Pune Supergiant chase with a half-century.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni steered the Rising Pune Supergiant chase with an unbeaten 61.   -  AFP

Mahendra Singh Dhoni slammed the last ball of the match to the fence and clinched a thrilling tie for Rising Pune Supergiant against Sunrisers Hyderabad. He provided unmitigated joy to the home supporters at the MCA international cricket stadium here on Saturday.

There has been considerable interest around Dhoni ever since he ceased to be RPS's captain. Furthermore, his batting ability in the T20s was questioned by former India captain Sourav Ganguly.

SCORECARD AND BALL-BY-BALL DETAILS

Dhoni came into the sixth match with scores of 12 not out, 5,11,5 and 28. He entered after Rashid Khan had cleaned up the Supergiant captain Steve Smith with a fine googly. And when the Afghan leg-spinner run out Rahul Tripathi on his follow through, the odds of the match drifting in favour of the Sunrisers gained strength, but as Tom Moody pointed out on Friday at the press conference, the volatile nature of the game surfaced and Dhoni virtually played a single-handed effort to steer his team to a third win.

It was quite fitting that Dhoni himself struck the winning blow with a boundary after Sunrisers skipper David Warner, in consultation with Bhuvneshwar Kumar tossed the ball to Siddarth Kaul to send down the last over of the match. It did not appear though that Warner was keen to look at Moises Henriques, who had bowled one over and conceded four runs, as an option; the Sunrisers captain chose three Indian seamers — Mohammad Siraj, Kumar and Kaul to bowl the last three overs when the run rate had climbed to 15 plus after Kumar had completed the 17th over.

After being taken heavy toll in his first two overs, Siraj conceded just six runs in the 16th over and Warner was probably justified in giving the Hyderabad seamer his fourth and last, but Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary  gathered their wits and hammered two sixes and a boundary as the Supergiant scored 16. Clearly, Dhoni was watching the ball and hitting the ball cleanly and the shots he struck off Kumar in the 19th also reflected his confidence. He scored 15 of the 19 scored in the 19th over and in such a momentum, it looked more likely that the Supergiant would win.

Tiwary hit a four off the first ball of the last over, although Khan tried hard to convert a catch near the line. After this boundary, Kaul conceded just three singles and a two, leaving Dhoni the task of scoring two off the last ball to win the match; he  hammered a four that left the fielders standing. While Dhoni played his part, Tripathi once again impressed with a terrific half century and was run out after responding to a call from Dhoni.

Earlier, the Sunrisers posted 176, thanks to a whirlwind 28-ball 55 by Henriques and the 54 runs it scored in the last six overs. Warner never got going  and Shikhar Dhawan played all the big shots in the Powerplay when Tamil Nadu’s Washington Sundar sent down two economical overs.