The years may have rolled on, he may no longer be the threat he once was, he may even struggle to get bat to ball at times. But there is one thing he can still do: take it to the last over. And then, as it used to be in his pomp, it is once again his will against the bowler’s will. On Thursday night at DY Patil Stadium, his will triumphed against the odds.
He was not even on strike when Jaydev Unadkat began the last over with Chennai Super Kings needing 17 runs to beat Mumbai Indians. Two balls later, CSK had lost a wicket and scored a single. Four balls, 16 needed, Dhoni on strike, crowd chanting ‘Dhoni, Dhoni.’ The touch may have deserted him, but the cheering fans haven’t, and most likely won’t.
Dhoni has managed to hit just one boundary in nine balls yet. He has to hit at least two or three now. The occasion and opponent has already got to Unadkat, though. Here comes a pitched-up ball, Dhoni winds up and unleashes it dead-straight, into the sightscreen. The crowd’s chants seem to have acquired some real belief now.
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Unadkat goes to his trusted slower bouncer; Dhoni wallops it high over short fine leg for four. It is to Unadkat’s credit that the penultimate ball squeezes swinging space away from Dhoni, but he smacks it to midwicket. The point is not that the 40-year old turns for the second, the point is how quickly and safely he makes it back.
It is down to a boundary needed off that proverbial and literal last ball yet again. It appears that even the crowd cannot quite believe how close Dhoni has taken it, and how suddenly. Unadkat runs in and bowls a low full toss on the stumps; a low full toss on the stumps had won MI the 2019 IPL final against CSK by one run. But Dhoni, as outwardly calm as ever, swings it to the deep backward square leg rope.
A raise of the bat to the dressing room is all that is allowed as release. Dhoni came into the game with a tournament strike-rate of 118, his match-stealing 28 has come at 215. The crowd has been jolted back in time, and it is one delirious jolt.
Choudhary rocks MI early
Before this match, Maharashtra left-arm seamer Mukesh Choudhary had gone at more than ten an over and his four wickets in five games had cost almost 45 runs apiece. On Thursday night, though, he rocked MI with three wickets in two overs. He should have had a fourth had Dwayne Bravo not put down Tilak Varma at slip off the first ball of Choudhary’s third over.
And, another one in the bag for Mukesh Choudhary.
Brevis departs for 4 runs.
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He claimed Rohit Sharma for a second-ball duck; it was one of those characteristic Rohit half-pushes where he instinctively brings bat down on the full delivery from the left-armer coming in to him from over the stumps, and doesn’t make any visible effort to keep it down. He can get away when the ball goes to midwicket or mid-on on the bounce, but this one carried to the latter. Rohit now averages 16.28 halfway through this IPL, at a strike-rate of 126.66, with a highest of 41. It has been a disaster, plain and simple.
Charged up, Choudhary kept attacking the stumps, but Ishan Kishan’s golden duck was all of his own earning. Choudhary was on target, of course – the rattled off stump bore evidence – but Kishan tried to play the overpitched delivery through midwicket or wide mid-on. Even for his very first ball, he wasn’t interested in offering a straight bat; in fact, his closed bat-face was so far away from the line that even the leading edge was beaten.
The third strike was all Choudhary; he saw Dewald Brevis in the mood to walk out and have a go. He dug it into the pitch, rolling his fingers as he let go of the ball; the ball never arrived for Brevis on a somewhat sticky surface, and he edged behind his swipe to make it 23 for 3.
But CSK let MI off, putting down at least four clear, takeable chances. Varma’s drop hurt them the most; he went from 2 to an unbeaten 51 off 43 that dragged the MI innings past 150.
CSK almost mess it up
CSK never got going in the chase, and the asking-rate kept climbing. Daniel Sams removed Ruturaj Gaikwad with his first ball and CSK’s move to promote Mitchell Santner to No 3 didn’t work. Robin Uthappa and Ambati Rayudu hung around but were unable to break free at any point, neither right-hander really attempting to attack debutant off-spinner Hrithik Shokeen.
Sams took care of Shivam Dube with an away-going beauty, and Riley Meredith’s wide and slow ones were too much to get hold of for Ravindra Jadeja. It all came down to Dwaine Pretorius and Dhoni; the former kept CSK in the hunt, and Dhoni took over at the end.