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November 9, 2008
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has said India had achieved the target they had aimed to set Australia despite suffering a severe middle-order collapse on the fourth day of the final Test in Nagpur.
At tea India were reeling at 166 for 6 after a disastrous middle session during which they lost six wickets for 68 runs. The dire situation was salvaged by Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh who added 108 for the seventh wicket and led India to 295, leaving Australia with 382 to win.
"That was a tough situation, all of a sudden we lost four-five wickets," Dhoni said. "We got off to a good start and we were looking to capitalise but at the end of the day we are quite happy with the amount of runs we have got. That was the target - around 360 in 90 overs - and I think we achieved it."
A major factor in India's recovery was Australia's slow over-rate. Mitchell Johnson bowled only one over at the start of the final session after which Ricky Ponting used a part-timer at one end along with Jason Krejza at the other. The combination of Cameron White, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke eased the pressure and Dhoni and Harbhajan were given more scoring opportunities. Dhoni said it was a significant passage of play.
"It is really great when you are not in a good situation and all of a sudden you see they [Australia] are supposed to bowl close to 25 or 28 overs in one hour and 15 minutes," Dhoni said. "You know the part-timer bowler will bowl because they have one specialist spinner. That was the time we really took on the spinners and got some runs.
"It [the over-rate] is always a concern if you are playing with too many fast bowlers. At the start of the day if you don't have the over-rate in your mind then you know after 4.30 pm, when the guys are tired and you have too many overs to bowl, the opposition can really capitalise."
To win Australia will have to score at four runs per over and Dhoni said that sort of a run-rate would be hard to achieve and maintain for 90 overs because of the rough areas on the pitch and the reverse-swing that would come into play once the ball was older.
"The match changes quite quickly on the fifth day in Indian conditions," Dhoni said. "As you saw today, we lost six wickets quickly so that always plays on your mind when you are chasing around four runs per over. It is not that you have to bat only for 40 or 50 overs, you have to bat for the 90 overs. After a few overs the ball also gets soft and there is a lot more wear and tear on the pitch. It will be interesting tomorrow, a lot will depend on what kind of start we get, or the opponent gets."
Dhoni had exerted unbelievable control over Australia's run-rate on Saturday by placing an 8-1 offside field and by instructing his fast bowlers to keep the ball wide outside off stump. As a result Australia scored only 42 runs in the first session and 49 in the second. The fields didn't make for attractive cricket but it restricted Australia's runs and brought India wickets.
"It is about winning the game," Dhoni said when asked whether his fields were defensive. "There have been strategies that have not been liked by opposition captains. But the thing that you want to do is to go out there and look to win games.
"Maybe they [Australian batsmen] could have done something different if we were bowling a bit away from them. We never saw anything like shuffling or trying to hit the ball on the on-side. There was no real effort from them."
India have 369 runs to defend on the final day to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Don't be surprised if Dhoni packs the off-side field with eight men when Australia's left-handers are on strike.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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