Dhoni’s experiment pays

Suresh Raina is jubilant after scoring the winning runs at Mohali.-AKHILESH KUMAR

Rohit Sharma came good as an opener in his fourth attempt in the role. Suresh Raina, who had tossed away good starts in the recent past, rode his luck to ensure India sealed the series. Rakesh Rao reports.

It was the crucial match of the series and India found the men for the moment. Rohit Sharma excelled in an unfamiliar role of an opener and Suresh Raina reinforced his image of being a ‘finisher’.

The fourth match of the series, with India 2-1 up, presented a must-win situation to England. The conditions in Mohali were “very English” with the fast bowlers licking their lips in anticipation of a rich haul. So it was obvious for the team winning the toss to put the opposition in. Once the coin fell in favour of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, things expectedly proved tough for Alastair Cook and his men.

England, which averaged less than four runs an over for 40 overs, hit 100 in the last 10! Cook set things up for England with a 76 before umpire Sudhir Asnani adjudged him leg-before to a delivery pitched outside the leg-stump. Kevin Pietersen matched Cook’s tally after scoring his slowest half century in this format. He changed gears with a few lusty blows before being ‘yorked’. Later, Joe Root scored his maiden, unbeaten half-century to give England a fair chance to make things even.

When India chased and eventually won by five wickets, Rohit turned out to be a surprise packet in a new role. Coming in place of his Mumbai team-mate Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit had aggregated just 17 runs in six outings and did not deserve a place in the playing XI. After all, Rohit’s sequence of scores in the last six innings read 5, 0, 0, 4, 4, 4.

But Dhoni had other ideas.

“We discussed with Rohit whether he could open. Since he cuts and pulls well, I always believed that he could be a very good opener. I am so glad he took up the challenge and came good,” said Dhoni, having described Rohit as a “God-gifted batsman.”

Rohit, playing his 87th match, went on to become the third slowest Indian to reach 2,000 runs in the 50-over format. But in the given situation, Rohit kept the Indian hopes alive with some pleasing stroke-play. With Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh failing to keep Rohit company for long, England was still in the match until Raina took charge.

Once Rohit fell leg-before with India needing 100 runs to win, it was Raina who ensured there was no respite for the desperate Englishmen. The left-hander, having added 68 crucial runs with Rohit for the fourth wicket, was lucky to survive after he was caught in the lone slip by Cook off Steven Finn. Umpire Steve Davis called it a ‘dead-ball’ the moment he noticed Finn had dislodged the bails with his right knee at the point of delivery. Thereafter, Raina raised another half-century stand with Dhoni and stayed around when Ravindra Jadeja hit the winning runs.

Soon after receiving the Man of the Match award, Raina said, “We looked to be positive, when you have five men in the circle you have to back your instincts. Today, I managed to finish the game. Rohit did really well. I remember Sachin telling us how we had to be the number one side in the field, and I think we did well there.”

Rohit explained his game-plan. “The idea was to just stay at the wicket because initially the ball was doing a bit. We know the Mohali wicket is very good to bat on and the outfield here is very fast, so we just wanted to stay in for 10 overs and see how it goes. We lost two crucial wickets in the middle, and we needed to build partnerships at the time. And everybody who came in, chipped in with a few good partnerships, which is important in ODI cricket. You need to get those 40-50 run partnerships going.”

Overall, Dhoni’s experiment worked and Rohit came good as an opener in his fourth attempt in the role.

Raina, who had tossed away good starts in the recent past, rode his luck to ensure India sealed the series.

THE SCORES

Fourth ODI - India v England, PCA Stadium, Mohali, January 23, 2013. India won by five wickets.

England: A. Cook lbw b Ashwin 76; I. Bell c Kumar b Ishant Sharma 10; K. Pietersen b I Sharma 76; E. Morgan c Yuvraj b Ashwin 3; S. Patel c & b Jadeja 1; J. Root (not out) 57; J. Buttler c Yuvraj Singh b Jadeja 14; T. Bresnan c Yuvraj Singh b Jadeja 0; J. Tredwell (not out) 6; Extras (b 2, lb 8, w 4) 14; Total (seven wickets in 50 overs) 257.

Fall of wickets: 1-37, 2-132, 3-138, 4-142, 5-220, 6-241, 7-241.

India bowling: B. Kumar 10-2-30-0; S. Ahmed 8-0-58-0; Ishant Sharma 10-2-47-2; R. Ashwin 10-0-63-2; R. Jadeja 10-2-39-3; S. Raina 2-0-10-0.

India: G. Gambhir c Buttler b Bresnan 10; Rohit Sharma lbw Finn 83; V. Kohli c & b Tredwell 26; Yuvraj Singh lbw Tredwell 3; S. Raina (not out) 89; M. S. Dhoni c Morgan b Dernbach 19; R. Jadeja not out 21; Extras (lb 2, w 5) 7; Total (five wickets in 47.3 overs) 258.

Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-72, 3-90, 4-158, 5-213.

England bowling: Steven Finn 10-1-39-1; Tim Bresnan 10-1-59-1; Jade Dernbach 9.3-0-59-1; Samit Patel 3-0-21-0; James Tredwell 10-0-54-2; Joe Root 5-0-24-0.