South Africa v India, 5th ODI, Centurion January 23, 2011

Dhoni pleased with end-over bowling

MS Dhoni has said that the bowling in the end overs and the late-order hitting of Yusuf Pathan have been the big positives for India to come out of the ODI series. Apart from that, Virat Kohli has been the only plus from a batting order than Dhoni said "struggled throughout the series".

"In the last few overs, the bowlers used their variations well," Dhoni said. "We don't have express bowlers, but we have got bowlers with skills. That's what they rely on. It was a satisfactory performance, but both the teams were struggling throughout the series when it comes to the middle order, which means both couldn't really get a prolonged slog. So that may be the reason bowlers did well in the death. [However], if we bowl like this in the World Cup, I'll be really pleased."

A stunning 68-ball century from Yusuf Pathan pulled India back into a game in which their batting looked painfully similar to how it did on day one of the tour, when they were bowled out for 136. Yusuf's form and the presence of other big hitters in the middle order give Dhoni a lot of confidence. "The biggest positive out of this game is that when we go into the World Cup, we will know that in the last 10 overs we can chase anything if we have wickets in hand. That lesson is more important than just the loss of the game."

Dhoni defended the top order's approach of going for their shots, which did look reckless. "It's a part and parcel of cricket. When you get off to a start where you get 28 runs in 10 overs for the loss of one wicket, then you are asked why there was no hurry. At the end of the day we were supposed to chase close to six runs an over. It's always a difficult task. You want to take the opposition on. At times you lose wickets, and that's what happened in this game."

Dhoni also defended his decision of bowling first despite picking an extra spinner in the side. It was an understandable decision, considering the rain in the air, but picking an extra spinner showed some confusion in the mindset. "Last time we played here we discussed that whatever the Centurion track has for the bowlers is in the initial period. After that, as the day progresses, it gets slightly better to bat on. And that's what happened in the 2006 series also. The wicket was very similar."

Dhoni thought the target was still chaseable, and lamented the form of some of the batsmen. "Throughout the series our batting department has not really scored a lot of runs. It's Virat who has done well, and down the order it's Yusuf. Still to be in a position like this, it's a good team effort, but we really need to perform as a unit."

However, Dhoni is confident the batsmen will return to form in the World Cup. "It's a matter of one or two innings, and some of the batsmen didn't get enough preparation time, which means quality batting practice sessions. A run of low scores does play on your mind, but it's not that the experienced players haven't gone through phases like these. It always happens in cricket. Especially, with us. We play 30 to 35 ODIs a year. We see the form going up and down in the same year, which means we are more used to dealing with situations like these."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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