Top-order failures creating pressure - Dhoni
MS Dhoni was satisfied by how his bowlers made a comeback from the pasting in Johannesburg and in the first half of this match, but his batsmen left him disappointed this time. And before you realise, the series is already gone.
India's bowlers leaked 358 at the Wanderers but performed relatively better at Kingsmead to keep South Africa to 280 for 6, after the openers had added 194 in 35 overs.
"If you talk about this particular game, I think the kind of shots we played, a few of them were on, but the execution was not great to some extent as they went to the fielders," Dhoni said. "But compared to the last game, the bowlers did a fantastic job, especially in the middle overs. Overall, I was very happy with the bowling performance because 280 on this wicket was decent. The wicket was on the flatter side, there wasn't much for the fast bowlers, but I was disappointed with the batting."
When asked about the short ball - Ajinkya Rahane was stuck against the bouncers from Dale Steyn and a couple of batsmen fell to short deliveries - Dhoni said there was no such weakness. "I don't think it was the short ball," Dhoni said. "It was more to do with shot selection, the shot execution. This wicket was on the flatter side, and pace was down for the fast bowlers.
"Also when we go outside people talk about the short-pitched bowling, because they know in the subcontinent we are not really used to this kind of bowling, but what we have seen is that you play a few shots and it pays off, then the opposition are in trouble as to where they need to bowl, and that's what really happened in the Champions Trophy. Also at times, when you play those big shots and it doesn't pay off and you end up losing quite a few wickets. That is something we will have to accept because it becomes part and parcel of cricket."
Dhoni said this performance is a one-off. "Well you can consider this as a one-off series," Dhoni said. "Yes we didn't bat really well but it can happen. Especially when you come outside and you see that the middle order is not performing, you may get a bit exposed if you lose early wickets at the top. [In] the last few series our middle order to some extent was a bit of a bother. In this series we lost the top three maybe quite early and our middle order was exposed to some extent. So if you assess that, maybe because of that we haven't been able to perform to our potential, especially in the batting department."
Dhoni said his team still stood a chance to salvage this tour. "It is part and parcel of any series that you play," Dhoni said. "You win quite a few and you lose quite a few. What's important is that you keep learning, and the bowlers learnt from the first game and bowled better in this game. I think as a batting unit also we need to learn quite a few things, and keep going onto the field."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo