India v South Africa, World T20 warm-ups, Mumbai March 12, 2016

Dhoni denied at the death

South Africa 196 for 8 (Duminy 67, de Kock 56, Pandya 3-36) beat India 192 for 3 (Dhawan 73, Raina 41) by four runs
Scorecard

Kyle Abbott bowled a tight 16th over © Getty Images

It was a pretty simple equation. India needed 60 runs from the final five overs. Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina had already shared an 89-run partnership. There was no doubt in South Africa's mind that the Indians were going to go for shots.

Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain, walked with his second lead fast bowler Kyle Abbott, who counted his steps and marked his run-up. Abbott had got rid of Rohit Sharma, the match-winner two days back at Eden Gardens against West Indies. His first spell read 2-0-14-1.

But now it was crunch time. India were looking for the one big over. Dhawan faced the first ball. He was ready to swing hard but he had to change his plans, surprised by the slower delivery from Abbott that dipped on to his feet. Dot ball. Next ball Dhawan swung uninhibitedly, but JP Duminy fluffed what was a tough but manageable catch. Abbott looked down and walked back without emotion.

Raina wanted to clear the square boundary on the off side, but had to be content with a single as Abbott bowled a yorker length delivery on the off stump. Next ball Abbott delivered a perfect yorker that Dhawan could do nothing but respect and dig out. Another dot ball. Abbott unleashed a bouncer the following delivery, which had Dhawan hop and skip, but the umpire gave it a wide. Abbott once again looked down and walked back to the mark. Bowling at death, you can't be emotional. Both batsmen took a single apiece to finish the over.

It was the Abbott over that swayed the match firmly in favour of South Africa. Suddenly, there was another surprise. Just as the South Africans and the umpires were moving to their positions for the new over, the pair of MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh rushed out to replace Dhawan and Raina, who retired.

The match till that final five overs had swayed both ways. South Africa had raised a formidable target courtesy of half-centuries from JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock against an Indian bowling line-up which had rested their strike bowling pair of Ashish Nehra and R Ashwin. In reply Dhawan and Raina had constructed the platform for big hitters in Dhoni, Yuvraj and Hardik Pandya to finish the job.

India's best two finishers were at the crease. The target was 55 runs from the final four overs. The dew was troubling the bowlers. The chants of "Dhoni, Dhoni, Dhoni" swirled around Wankhede, which was 80% full. Dhoni slashed at Chris Morris ruthlessly for consecutive boundaries to only make the din louder. Du Plessis then asked Dale Steyn to deliver the next over. The chants carried on. Steyn steamed in. Steyn faltered, bowled his first ball short on the leg side. Dhoni pirouetted into position and swung the ball for the highest six of the day: into the top-most tier of Garware Pavilion behind square. Steyn would end up leaking 15 runs.

Abbott was back. Dhoni managed a single off the first ball. Yuvraj tried to cross-bat a fast, short angling away delivery, but missed. Another heavy, slower ball resulted in just a single. The equation was simple again: India needed 22 runs from eight balls. Dhoni was back on strike. Abbott dared to bowl a slower-ball bouncer on off stump. It was the perfect length, the right speed. His only fault - it was an inch outside the tram line and the umpire declared it as a wide. Abbott made amends, cutting a ball into Dhoni's body. It was now the last ball of his spell. He went for the slower bouncer. This time Yuvraj did not hurry. He waited and swatted it over long-on for a six.

Simple equation: six balls, 14 runs. Morris started with a curling off stump yorker that Dhoni tried to cut but missed. He looked at the umpire in vain to signal a wide. Another wild swing, aiming to hit over the leg side, only resulted in a single. Yuvraj ran hard for two runs as Morris continued to be accurate, bowling as full as possible. A superb low full toss nearly resulted in a lbw, but an inside edge saved Yuvraj. Ten from 2 balls now. The ball slipped from Morris' hands, ended up being a rank full toss and Dhoni picked an easy four.

One ball, six runs. The restless, excited crowd was behind Dhoni. Du Plessis cleaned the ball with the white cloth to keep it dry. Morris rubbed the sweat with both shoulders. He took one heavy breath and ran forward. He delivered an off-stump yorker, but it ended up being a wide. Cameras flashed across the ground, ready to capture that moment. Morris won the battle as Dhoni could only hit the final ball, a low full toss, straight to deep square leg. He did not even finish the run, which was uncharacteristic of Dhoni. India lost by four runs.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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