How Dhoni spooked Mumbai Indians
Mumbai is a terrifying place to bat first - the boundaries are cruelly small and the prospect of dew later in the night is almost haunting. So imagine being in Rising Pune Supergiant's dugout. They went slower than a-run-a-ball in the Powerplay and the run-rate had just about nudged past six when the final five overs began.
But there was a man in the middle who normally doesn't let his shoulders drop when picturing the worst case scenario. He winds them up instead and just goes bang. MS Dhoni was on 14 of 17 before the final 12 balls of the innings. He finished 40 not out off 26.
The acceleration didn't seem like it would ever come, because Mumbai Indians' bowlers had a splendid plan. The spinners bowled flat and quick to cramp Dhoni. The quicks hit the deck hard and denied him any swinging room. But the thing with gun players is that one shot, one properly timed monster of a shot, can spook the opposition.
It came in the 18th over when Dhoni, camped deep in his crease, cleared his front leg and launched Mitchell McClenaghan for a six over midwicket. The next two deliveries - meant to be slow, short and outside the reach of the batsman - became wides. So McClenaghan corrected his line and found Dhoni waiting for it. The ball disappeared over long-on. The finisher was in.
A flat, hard club for six in the 20th over. It was one of the few chances Dhoni had to free his arms and he did so with every bit of his considerable might. As eye-catching as the stroke itself was, it was also the first time he had hit Jasprit Bumrah over the boundary rope in the IPL. And that count would rise further before the night was done.
Stats that matter
- Rising Pune made 41 runs in the last two overs against Mumbai Indians. Dhoni's contribution was 26, with four sixes
- Dhoni has hit 191 of his 280 runs in the IPL against pace bowling at a strike-rate of 146. Against Mumbai, he struck them at 182.
What they said
"Big game, big players stepped up. I thought MS was magnificent in the end."
Rising Pune Supergiant captain Steven Smith
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo