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November 15, 2007
For about 30 minutes during the fourth one-day international in Gwalior, Sachin Tendulkar's march towards his 42nd one-day century was the centre of attention. He was batting so fluently that victory seemed inevitable. Then he got out, on 97, and suddenly realisation dawned that India still needed 96 to win. Mahendra Singh Dhoni strode purposefully to join Yuvraj Singh in the middle and in the next hour the series was won.
Yuvraj and Dhoni batted with supreme confidence and added 101 in 17.2 overs. It was evident that they enjoy batting together and complement each other well. The running between the wickets was sharp; Dhoni pushed one gently off his hips towards the vacant square-leg region and sprinted through for two as Kamran Akmal had to give chase, and both batsmen used force to destructive effect. Yuvraj pulled a long-hop from Salman Butt into the midwicket stands to bring down the runs required per over to under ten. Not to be outdone, Dhoni hammered Butt over long-on for a six and sparked off victory celebrations.
"We're batting a lot together because Yuvraj bats at No. 4 and I follow at No. 5 or if he bats at No. 5 then I come at No. 6," said Dhoni. "It's very crucial that we understand each other's game. Both of us are stroke-players and we run well between the wickets.
"We play as partners. If I am batting and we have not got enough runs in an over then Yuvraj at the other end makes up the deficiency by scoring a boundary."
It's a bond that has played a defining role in this series. Yuvraj and Dhoni came together at 113 for 3 in Guwahati and took India to the verge of victory by adding 105 runs in 22 overs on a sluggish pitch. In Kanpur, they belted 100 runs for the fourth wicket in 15.1 overs to set up India's total of 294. And their partnership today meant that they have played a part in all of India's victories.
Pakistan could have hardly been caught by surprise for in 2005-06, Yuvraj and Dhoni ran amok in two of India's four one-day victories on the tour of Pakistan. They added an unbeaten 102 while chasing 289 in Lahore and racked up 146, chasing 287 to complete the 4-1 series victory in Karachi.
In Gwalior, today, Dhoni led India to their first one-day series victory against Pakistan at home in 24 years. The margin was wide in the end - six wickets and 3.3 overs to spare - but Dhoni said that the target of 256 was made easy by the start India got. He also expressed surprise at Shoaib Malik's decision to field first despite the heavy dew during practice the previous evening.
"If we had won the toss we would have fielded so I was surprised when Malik chose to bat," Dhoni said. "There was a lot of dew on the field when we practised last evening which had a big impact on the game. Even though they were playing four fast bowlers it was difficult to bowl in the right areas."
Malik, however, played down the dew factor and said that the game was up when the Pakistan fast bowlers failed to rein in the Indian batsmen at the start. India have retained the same 15 for the final ODI in Jaipur, where the dew factor will once again come into play in another day-night contest.