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

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 15, 2016, 7:31 GMT

    Harbhjan is the only guy who can wiin the cup for India. When Harbhjan plays there is no need of Ashwin/Juddu, I can even take out Yuvraj/Dhawan. He is the best in business. We all can deny but Harbhjan should open the inning for India with bat & ball. If not India will loose to Pakistan & even in the finals if they ever reach. Harbhjan should Captain the team Dhoni should be vice captain. Mark this piost. Harbhjan knows the tricks.

  • Chatty on March 14, 2016, 14:34 GMT

    "Dhoni denied at the death"!! Sounds like MS had a near death experience. Or he wanted to cross to the other side and god said, "no, it is not your time yet"!

  • UdayLakshman on March 14, 2016, 9:24 GMT

    Truly 2016WCT20 hot favorites are India !!! South Africa has good record in India recent past series but knock out phase will be test for them ...If India wins, SC people will be happy. If RSA/Kiwis win, world cricket will be happy.

  • Vaughan on March 14, 2016, 8:47 GMT

    Yes yes we all know this was just a warm up match, so relax. The teams were trying out different combinations, and SA was trying out their death bowling while India were trying out their finishing. Cannot wait for them to meet in the knockout stages though, it will be an absolute cracker!

  • Blessing on March 14, 2016, 8:37 GMT

    Nothing much to read from this really. The ICC should scrap the pre-tournament tournament. It is useless. The stadiums are empty and minnows are playing against one another YET AGAIN which wont help them develop at all. Take a leaf from the IRB where rugby sevens is taken all around the world and minnows and semi professionals get to rub shoulders with the Springboks,Kiwis and Fiji. Check how much following this has attracted in Canada,Brazil,Japan and USA, big markets which didn't care about rugby but now have, be it small ,professional rugby leagues of their own!! The ICC is run by incompetent, money hungry people(the big 3) with no interest in the development of cricket into a world wide sport!! ESPN please publish.

  • Gaurav on March 14, 2016, 8:19 GMT

    very well written story..Good Job..!

  • Krishen on March 14, 2016, 6:33 GMT

    IND had a good practice match v SA. IND's successful chase would have made the preparation perfect. A T20 match has multiple phases; power play (1-6 overs, mid overs (7-16) & end overs (17-20).SA batting/IND bowling (runs/wickets): power play (71/2); mid overs (87/1); end overs (38/5). IND batting/ SA bowling (runs/wickets): power play (47/2); mid overs (94/1); end overs (50/0). Clearly SA got a 24 run advantage in power play whereas IND had the advantage of 7 / 12 runs in mid / end overs. Bowling IND. Pace : 12-0-124-7(RPO 10.33); Spin : 8-0-70-0(9.75); SA. Pace : 14-0-136-2(RPO 9.71); Spin : 6-0-54-0(9.0). Clearly in the chase IND left too much to chase in end overs against teams with strong bowling attack, by going hard in power play overs / delaying acceleration in mid overs. This is a repeat of ODIs in CWC2015, series in /BD /SA / AUS. If IND manages power play risks, mid over acceleration, plans for big hitters in opposition effectively, another T20 title win could be on cards.

  • Manesh on March 14, 2016, 6:06 GMT

    It seems like others are more interested in an Indian win than the Indian fans. They were eager to criticize Indian team which will help India to win other

  • alaghu on March 14, 2016, 6:04 GMT

    I thing still group b India will get one position. Second position may be australia/pakisthan/Bangaldesh. India will win world cup. If india didnt win this world cup then they may crashed in group stage itself(Very less chance). Because Delhi,mumbai,kolkatta support spin bowler. This venue for semi final and final. In this venue south africa or any team cant beat

  • Suhas on March 14, 2016, 6:03 GMT

    This is Practice match.India and SA used this match for Practice not for win. India did not used Ashwin and SA rested ABD,Raina and Dhawan retired not out etc

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