India v England, 3rd Test, Mumbai, 3rd day March 20, 2006

'I just controlled myself when I got in' - Dhoni



Mahendra Singh Dhoni remained undeterred after a painful blow on the head © AFP

India's best chance of getting close to England's total was when Mahendra Singh Dhoni was at the crease, playing with circumspection not usually associated with his batting. He ended up as the top-scorer with 64, but at the end of the day, he was quite disappointed with his dismissal - both its timing and its manner. Speaking to the media after the third day's play, he reckoned the end-of-day scenario might have been quite different had he stayed around a little longer.

"If I would have stayed another 10-15 overs it would have been a completely different situation, because the ball was new [second over with the second new ball] and runs would have come quite easily because the ball was coming on to the bat nicely. There would have been a chance to get out as well, but speaking positively, if I had stayed a little longer we could have got some more runs."

It was an uncharacteristically subdued knock, full of nudges rather than powerful hits, and Dhoni admitted that his approach had something to do with the bowling. "I just controlled myself when I got into bat. They were not really pitching the ball up to me so I just stayed away from shots like the free-flowing cover-drive. The England bowlers get good bounce from the surface and that can get the batsmen into trouble initially."

Not only was it a harder struggle for runs, Dhoni also had to recover from a blow to the back of the head, when a bouncer from Andrew Flintoff hit him on 14. Was the move to call the physio a precautionary one, or something more? "I just called the physio for inspection. The ball didn't entirely hit the helmet, it got me on the head as well, so I just wanted him to examine me and take his views as well."

The high point of his innings was his battle with Flintoff, against whom he scored 27 runs off 22 balls, and the battle was heating up again, with Dhoni launching fours off three successive balls, before he was controversially given out by the third umpire, though replays didn't conclusively prove if either the bail had been completely removed from its groove in time. He was understandably cagey when talking about the dismissal. "I haven't seen the television replays, so I can't really say much about it. Actually when I passed the stumps [while attempting to complete the run] I thought he [James Anderson] missed it. When I was returning to pick up my bat I saw there were no bails on the stumps."

Despite being pushed into a corner, India could still fight back, reckoned Dhoni. "We have good spinners on our side and the ball is turning, so we can hope for a target of around 250 and we are still positive." With the lead already at 150, the Indian bowlers will need to strike early, and repeatedly, to keep them in the game.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo