South Africa v India, 2nd ODI, Johannesburg January 16, 2011

India win with determination and a lot of luck

India never had a realistic chance of winning until Graeme Smith took the batting Powerplay when it wasn't needed and inside-edged on to his stumps

On days like these, you realise the value of hanging in there until the bitter end. On days like these, you become cricket theists; you start acknowledging the concept of cricketing gods. On days like these, you can waste a solid start, a middle-order rebuild, end up with 190 on a fairly good batting surface, and still win. On days like these, the opposition captain can go for glory, asking for a Powerplay when he needs only 2.4 runs an over, and lose three wickets for 20 runs. On days like these, you can get lbws without hitting the pad. On days like these, you can miss a run-out and nearly miss another but still get that wicket. On days like these, you can be lazy at third man, costing the team three crucial runs, but still come back and bowl two short and wide deliveries to take the last two wickets, with one run to defend.

Days like these are when you don't pocket any of the first eight balls, but your opponent misses a simple shot at the nine ball. Still, you have to make that final pocket, put that nine ball in. When the opposition is offering you gifts, you have to be there to receive them. India were there to receive theirs today, nudging South Africa and the cricketing gods enough at the right times to make sure those gifts came their way.

When Zaheer Khan didn't get off to the best of starts with the ball, Munaf Patel made sure India got the early wicket. He extracted bounce from the pitch, and relied on that early seam movement to snare Hashim Amla, and went for just 18 in his first spell of four overs. When Ashish Nehra struggled against a rampaging Graeme Smith, Harbhajan Singh tied the other end up, coming on to bowl during the first Powerplay, keeping India in the game for longer.

MS Dhoni commended Harbhajan's effort later, to go with Munaf's start. "Harbhajan's contribution was really important," he said. "The South African batsmen had momentum on their side. The way he bowled, that eight-over spell (for 27 runs), they decided to not take Harbhajan on, which meant they lost a bit of momentum. That really brought us back. After that every body contributed. Munaf's contribution was brilliant. He bowls really straight, varies his pace really well, and he deserves to be the Man of the Match."

Still, with Dhoni dropping Colin Ingram, with the fielding not looking greater than it usually is, the game seemed to meander towards the obvious result, but this was not a night for the obvious results. Dhoni introduced part-time spin, JP Duminy went for glory too, and India were now into the inexperienced David Miller and the five bowlers, a ploy India have always avoided. And Dhoni was quick to point this game out to illustrate why he doesn't play five bowlers.

"Putting pressure on the South African middle and lower order order was important," Dhoni said. "We knew [Johan] Botha and [Wayne] Parnell can bat, but pressure is a completely different ball game. When you put pressure on players like, from our side, Harbhajan or Zaheer, who we know can bat, but in a situation like this it becomes very different. That's what we wanted to do. At times pressure makes you do things that you are not supposed to do."

The pressure didn't quite work immediately. Smith and Miller added 32 runs, and while Miller looked shaky, it seemed Smith was back to his form of carrying the team through till the end. And suddenly he too seemed to want to make a statement by finishing it off in style, calling for the Powerplay. Then Munaf produced what Smith called a "good slower ball", one that straightened enough to catch the inside edge onto the stumps.

Now India started feeling it. Back came their hunter, Zaheer, who likes to prey on weak minds. He shouldn't have got Botha's wicket when he did, but the slower bouncer he bowled to Miller showed good awareness of how the pitch was behaving. It was a pitch on which Munaf showed that the slower ones gripped and bounced at the batsmen, and Zaheer started using that too.

And again, when Parnell and Morne Morkel looked like they had sort of got used to Munaf's rhythm, Dhoni brought Raina on. It might not have worked on the night, but the mind was working, an attempt was being made to try and make things happen, to try and encash that gift voucher. Dhoni was proactive again when he brought Munaf back with three runs required, keeping the fields up, unlike in Tests.

His description of the events of that last over just reinforced the presence of cricketing gods, who smile at some and punish some others. "When you need one or two wickets, and the opposition needs three runs, you know they are just one stroke away," Dhoni said. "There is pressure then as to whether the fielder should be in or out to save that boundary. When you come back after losing a toss, you blame yourself, thinking you could have called heads as opposed to tails. Bringing that point fielder in was a somewhat similar situation. I had just decided to bring Yusuf [Pathan] in, and the catch went his way." Thus the nine ball went in.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Angad11 on January 19, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    oh by the way, did any one notice that botha (the second kallis of the SA team) has just scored a century and helped SA win the third ODI and all the ODI to come. @afker, PCB is going to draw a lottery as to who is going to captian pak, guess wat, Ijaz butt is also there in the list, just pray that his name doesnt come up...

  • A.Afker on January 19, 2011, 11:44 GMT

    @pom_basher. How Ashish was right about botha?. Can't he make just one run to win the match if not that dubious decision?...Merely one run from 40+ balls.PCB will decide who will captain the young PAK team. @ Man007. Only IND denied UDRS but not the SA.Same thing happen to SL as well once with IND. AUS,ENG,NZ also prefer the UDRS just like SA,SL and PAK.But out of all IND is the only country who do not like UDRS and for that they will give 100 of reasons.Anyway keep it up BCCI.God will help future of Cricket.

  • on January 19, 2011, 10:26 GMT

    @A.Afker. If the host team do not want this, then who to blame???

  • pom_basher on January 19, 2011, 9:17 GMT

    @A.Afker - Ashish was right about botha. by the way who is captaining the pakistani bunch at the world cup?

  • pom_basher on January 19, 2011, 9:15 GMT

    Another lucky win Mr Monga?

  • A.Afker on January 19, 2011, 7:06 GMT

    @ashish514. How can say Botha's decision is not effected,it will effect not only the match but also series as well.SA loss by just 1 run only.Not 100+ runs. If they loss by 100+ runs then definetely Botha's decision is not effective but here is just 1run only.For BCCI and all the Indian supportors why u are fear to UDRS,where u getting all the benefit from the umpire whether it is Test or ODI (it is proven in Test and ODI in SA).95% decisin is better than 85% isn't it?....All the matches should play with UDRS and 3times barrier should lift and it should be any no of times or 5times minimum.Cricket is the only sport they use technology minimum that too because of only one country.It should be avoided at least in the future.

  • NikSaid on January 18, 2011, 22:10 GMT

    Sid...just copy and paste this article again, change Munaf to Harbhajan! and if you are really a journo, write up article about 3rd odi and give due credit where it must be and kinda say that you got the luck factor wrong here..apology will be too much to ask I guess.

  • dummy4fb on January 18, 2011, 20:53 GMT

    Uh, did India win because of luck again Sidharth? Or is there going to be some credit given for the 3rd ODI? :-)

  • dummy4fb on January 18, 2011, 14:54 GMT

    Come on Guys, The team is full of young blood , only after Mr.Srikanth came . Otherwise we will be playing with old hogs. so stop pointing out Srikanth, because there are 3 other selectors, a captain, and coach for team selection.

  • Jaggadaaku on January 18, 2011, 10:54 GMT

    Mr. Dhoni still expecting the form from Vijay? We all know and his runs statistics of strike rate showing he is not the person for short format of cricket. Only those batsmen can qualify to play ODI cricket today who carrries healthy batting average and over 80 strike rate. Looks like Mr. Dhoni and Mr. Srikanth(Chairman of Selection Committee) cannot see the other OPENERS who also carries healthy batting average and a lot better than M. Vijay, and over 80 strike rate in domestic ODIs such as Uthappa, Ajinkye Rhane, Pujara, and Abhinav Mukund. It also looks like Mr. Dhoni and Mr. Srikanth already included M. Vijay in World Cup team, and now they want him to make some runs so no one can raise a finger on them. We already seen M. Vijay playing against New Zealand. He seemed like he was playing test match keeping the strike rate of 50-60 in ODIs against New Zealand, one of the minow team today. What the batsmen like M. Vijay could do in ODI World cup? Only Dhoni and Srikanth & GOD know.

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