Mahendra Singh Dhoni acknowledged that India's seven-wicket victory in the third One-Day International against England at the JSCA International Cricket Stadium in Ranchi on Saturday (January 19) was set up by the bowlers, who bowled England out for 155 in 42.2 overs.
Dhoni, the local lad, was aware of the conditions and that helped him opt to field after winning the toss. "There was a little help for the bowlers, especially with two new balls being used and conditions in their favour, they could exploit it and that is what they did," said Dhoni. "We also knew if there is sufficient amount of dew (in the second half) then we may be restricted, our spinners may not get turn and it would come to the bat nicely in the second innings. In that case the batsmen would have had to take the pressure."
Shami Ahmed gave India the breakthrough in the eighth over, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma were equally impressive with the new ball. Dhoni credited the seam bowlers for bowling good lines and keeping the run-rate in check. "Even though we did not get many wickets in the beginning, we did not allow them to score runs at the start," he said. "That led to a wicket and we kept attacking."
After Kevin Pietersen fell, the England batting fell apart, losing five wickets in the space of 30 runs to a combination of pace and spin. The spinners picked up a total of six wickets and Dhoni had equal praise for them too, "I thought the spinners bowled really well on a decent wicket that did not have much for them," pointed out Dhoni. "(Ravindra) Jadeja only bowled six overs but he was brilliant, and kept the pressure mounting."
This was the second time in a row that England had collapsed to spin after being bowled out for 158 in Kochi in the second ODI. However, Dhoni downplayed England's shortcomings. "You have to see whether our bowlers bowled well or not, and whether their batsmen batted well or not. It was a catch 22 situation as there was something in the wicket," said Dhoni.
India's chase did not get off to a good start. Steven Finn managed to get good bounce in the first few overs and accounted for the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane in the third over of the innings. Dhoni conceded that the conditions were not as easy as it looked from outside. "The wicket did not ease out initially during our innings. There was something for the fast bowlers, and it was nipping around a bit," he said.
Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli took some time to settled down too, before the runs started flowing and the second-wicket partnership of 67 runs between the two ensured that the game was in India's control. "Gautam batted very well with Virat. The intent was right. Whichever ball had to be hit, they played their shots," said Dhoni.
Kohli's form was a concern coming into this game, but his fluent unbeaten 77 put him back on track and Dhoni was happy for him. "It was good to see how he played, the way he placed his innings," said Dhoni. "It was important because there was swing in the beginning. Once he crossed his 50, he ensured that he did not throw away his wicket. He played the big shots but at the same time was very calculative."
With India needing 12 runs to win, Dhoni promoted himself ahead of Suresh Raina to be at the centre when the first victory was registered in what was the first match at his home ground. "I was sitting next to Raina, and he was supposed to go in and bat. He said, 'why don't you go in next'. I padded up but it did not look like a wicket would fall, but fortunately or unfortunately, Yuvraj got out at that point of time," recalled Dhoni.
Dhoni also thanked the people of Ranchi for coming out in large numbers and making the match a success. "It helps when so many spectators are between you and everybody is moving in one direction," said Dhoni. "It was up to the mark, just like what was expected. People were excited and they supported the team really well."