India v Sri Lanka, tri-series final, Port-of-Spain July 11, 2013

Iceman Dhoni breaks SL hearts


India 203 for 9 (Rohit 58, Dhoni 45*, Herath 4-20) beat Sri Lanka 201 (Sangakkara 71, Thirimanne 46, Jadeja 4-23, Bhuvneshwar 2-24) by one wicket
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Leave it to me, he says. I want to take this to the last over. Me against one man. One on one. I know I am better than the last man the other team can put up against me. Once again, MS Dhoni reduced a lost match into a one-on-one contest with an opposition bowler, and knocked off the 15 required in just three hits. You could see the bowler - Shaminda Eranga, 9-2-34-2 until then, wickets of Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli to his name - was intimidated the moment he saw the first one fly into the top of the top tier.

Bear in mind that this was a treacherous pitch with seam, spin and uneven bounce. Dhoni was injured, and had come back only for this match. He wasn't running as hard as he does, and wickets were falling at the other end. When Dhoni came in, the asking-rate was 3.35, but with falling wickets and turned-down singles, it hit the improbable towards the end. Dhoni, though, kept refusing singles, kept admonishing the last man Ishant Sharma for taking off for panic-stricken singles.

Ishant couldn't be blamed. The game had unravelled fast for India. They were cruising when Rohit Sharma had braved for yet another fifty despite another painful blow to his body (which makes it atleast four in two innings against Sri Lanka), despite many balls that seamed past his edge, despite the slow start. When India were 139 for 3 in the 32nd over, though, Rangana Herath delivered a grubber, and it squeezed under Rohit's bat. Things were about to change.

The pitch was still difficult to bat on as Suresh Raina soon found out. He thought he had a half-volley from Suranga Lakmal when he went for the drive, but even after pitching that full the ball seamed away appreciably and took his edge. The accurate and wily Herath saw an opening now. And burst through it. In the 38th over, his last, Herath trapped Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin - whose combined figures had been 17.5-1-65-6 - in successive deliveries. India 152 for 7.

The drama had begun. Only a few minutes earlier, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara had gone on and on - for overs it seemed - about an obstructing-the-field appeal against Dhoni. He had taken two steps down the wicket, and then realised he would have hit the other batsman if he ran straight. So he ran, nay hared on a bad hamstring, at an angle, but didn't change his direction for the remaining 20 yards. The throw hit him, and the two senior Sri Lankans would not leave the umpire's side. They knew they needed this man out as soon as possible.

For the next half hour, though, Sri Lanka would have thought they didn't need to get Dhoni out. Dhoni tried to intimidate Lakmal once during the Powerplay, but after that he began playing the percentage game. Sri Lanka knew Dhoni couldn't manipulate the strike with that hamstring, and controlled the game well. Lasith Malinga - seven overs for 54 runs until then - finally got his radar right, and got Bhuvneshwar Kumar toe before wicket with his dipping slower yorker. In the tense overs that followed, R Vinay Kumar lost his cool, and slogged and got out. India 182 for 9 after 46.2 overs.

With any other batsman than Dhoni, you would expect panic. Dhoni, though, wanted to corner just one man. He wanted to bring it down to that one man. He was also daring Sri Lanka to keep back Malinga, who had one over left, for the last. Sri Lanka didn't. Malinga bowled the 48th. Dhoni faced the whole over, looking unhurried, for just a scrambled couple.

The only man hurried was Ishant, who tried a suicidal single off the last ball of Malinga's over to keep Dhoni on strike. The ball, though, had gone straight to the fielder, and Dhoni was miffed Ishant tried such desperation. It was not becoming of someone batting with the coolest and the best batsman in ODI cricket. Ishant would do that again off the first ball of the next over. Twice Dhoni let Ishant know what he did was not right. Ishant faced another dot. Then another dot. Seventeen off nine. Dhoni was cool at the other end. He had marked out his man. He knew it wouldn't be an experienced bowler in the last over.

Two runs came off the last three balls of the 49th over, but Ishant was made to feel under no pressure. He had been told to leave it to the man who knew his way around these lanes. Then began the great show. As soon as Ishant left alone - yes, left alone - the last ball of the 49th over, Dhoni signalled to the dressing room for a new, heavier bat.

As Angelo Mathews psyched Shaminda Eranga up for the last over, Dhoni practised a few swings with two bats held together. Calculatedly he picked out one. Eranga went to his mark. This match should not have been on, but in Dhoni's book this was even odds. Eranga bowled a nervous first ball: a wide length ball, which Dhoni swung hard at. That was a nervous ball, and would have been out of the ground had Dhoni connected. Dhoni didn't.

The second ball, though, was closer to Dhoni - swing, and met that hunk on the up. And up it went. And far. And kept going. Over the top of the stands. You could see it in Eranga's eyes now. It was now going to be nigh impossible for Eranga to execute his skill. In one hit, Dhoni had brought it down to just luck for Sri Lanka. The luck was not with them. Eranga bowled length again, Dhoni went hard again, and the ball flew off the outside half of the bat, and over point.

It was over already. Eranga just ran up for the formalities, delivered another length ball, and was dispatched over extra cover. The iceman had done it again, but he hadn't had a great first half of the day as a keeper and a captain. Apart from not having been at his best with the gloves, Dhoni had also let Sri Lanka off the hook with his choice of part-time bowlers ahead of the specialist spinners, who would eventually go on to cut Sri Lanka's effort short.

Bhuvneshwar had given India his customary breakthroughs in the first spell, the scoring was difficult, but Virat Kohli and Raina provided Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne relief with their odd long hop or big wides. Their partnership took Sri Lanka to 171 for 2, but then Thirimanne made a mistake, and almost every batsman that followed. In over-aiming during that Powerplay, Sri Lanka had lost their last eight wickets for 30 runs, letting Dhoni off the hook now.

You will be justified to think of Dhoni's choice of bowlers as odd. As you would have been with his persistence against all logic with Ishant in the Champions Trophy final. Just that the results were drastically different.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmon on July 14, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    @NP_NY: ---" I really don't think Bevan ever struck as much fear in the opposition as Dhoni does."---

    Bingo. The opposition never feared Bevan. They knew he would place the ball here and there and keep taking sharp singles/doubles to reduce the target as the innings would progress but they never really saw him being able to hit 4s and 6s all of a sudden or at a critical point and so they could place the fielders accordingly. With Dhoni the threat is two fold. They know that if they give him gaps he will be happy to take singles and they also know that Dhoni can at any point of time hit 2 6s in the over to release the pressure. In this final match. Dhoni hit nothing big till the last cos he had no wickets left and so he wanted to minimize the risks. But otherwise, he does hit 4s/6s as and when required. Did we not see him hitting them big in the WC Final?

    Sundara, I think you are now looking deep into stats to find some anomaly to somehow prove that Bevan>Dhoni. Keep looking.

  • N on July 14, 2013, 6:05 GMT

    @Sundara-Chandare: You are entitled to your opinions but it seems majority of the fans here and almost every cricket analyst, commentator and writer in the world seem to agree that Dhoni is THE BEST finisher ever in ODIs. I really don't think Bevan ever struck as much fear in the opposition as Dhoni does. It doesn't matter what you are I believe. The fact is Dhoni has become a bit of a super-hero for Indian fans, with his calm and fearless captaincy, batting and keeping and has won pretty much every tournament possible. So we Indian fans will continue to celebrate him as the best ever finisher, regarless of whether you agree or like it.

  • Harmon on July 13, 2013, 21:01 GMT

    @Sundara-Chandare: We are talking about who is the better finisher here, isn't it so? Even if we are talking about who is a better batsman in ODIs, Dhoni still wins but since the moot point is about finishing skills then I think we all agree that finishing refers to that skill that allows a batsman to take his team to the target while chasing it. If you disagree with this definition then let us see how you define it. But if we continue with that definition then the stats I gave to you in my prev comment clearly show how Dhoni is better than Bevan on all parameters.

    On one hand you were trying to over complicate the scenario by comparing Dhoni with Bevan, Ponting, Afridi and then when I started talking about real hard stats then you gave a timid stat of overall win percentages? You did not even see that your 'overall' stats had little relevance to the topic of "finisher".

    Bevan could never control the game like Dhoni does. He was great too but Dhoni is ahead of him.

  • RAVINDER on July 13, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    Nice to see bith Ind and SL fans not indulging in mud slinging like they have done before many times before. Now this is only due to excellent fight shown by both teams and both teams were once at no comeback position as well winning position but one team has to be the winner which India duly was.And this is how teams command respect which both teams did which allowed fans to to respect each other as well.I hope this will be good start between SL and IND fans.

  • mythily on July 13, 2013, 15:10 GMT

    Posted by Sundara-Chandare on (July 13, 2013, 13:53 GMT), your stats regarding the comparison of bevan and dhoni are wrong.Please check cricinfo stat .Regarding your example of kallis and tendulkar,kallis is the best all rounder and he even have average more than tendulkar.But why many rate tendulkar higher is his longevity for 24 yrs of cricket and consistent performance with better average in all test playing country.Dhoni have more strike rate and average than Bevan in winning cause with less number of matches and with added responsibility of wicketkeeping and captaining the side.Bevan used to be best finisher for me till I come across dhoni and I am not even indian cricket fan for that matter. So stats says dhoni slightly ahead of Bevan but you can't just say Bevan better by adding afridi,ponting, and so n so players when everyone knows dhoni stats are slightly better than Bevan at this point .Please check the correct stats .

  • Aravinthan on July 13, 2013, 14:45 GMT

    Fortune has granted one of the most remarkable gifts to the Indian Captain 'the art of unthinking at the crucial moments' how does he does he do it? can he do it always? only time will tell ,but as long as it keeps on happening lets savor the moments ,because who knows Indian Cricket may never see a man like him again.

  • Isuru on July 13, 2013, 14:22 GMT

    @Harmony111-Simple Stats:-

    Dhoni has played 200inns so far.He has played 110inns in a winnig side.55./. as a presentage.

    Bevan played 196inns.He played 122inns as a winners.62./ as a presentage.

    One day Dhoni can be the world best finisher.But not yet.

  • Isuru on July 13, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    @jasonpete-I'll give you example

    [1]Jacques Kallis's avg is 56+.He is a front line bowler for South Africa.And playing as a num3.I don't like to compare but sorry guys Tendulkar's avg is 53 and didn't ball much and num4 batsman.It's really simple Kallis has more responsibility than Tendulkar.Also avg is better than Tendulkar.But still we call to Tendulkar as a best.You can't put Dhoni ahead of Bevan just because strike rate or captaincy pressure or wicket keeping pressure.Simple ultimate truth is Bevan is the best finisher for ever.

  • Harmon on July 13, 2013, 13:36 GMT

    @Sundara-Chandare: You are comparing Dhoni for Reason X with Bevan, you are comparing Dhoni with Afridi for Reason Y then you are then comparing Dhoni for Reason Z with Ponting and then arriving at a conclusion regarding Dhoni!!!. The reason why Dhoni is the best finisher in the game is cause he has won more matches than Bevan, in fewer matches than Bevan and he has scored more runs than Bevan at a much higher avg than Bevan at a much faster SR than Bevan.

    Take a look: Bevan: 75 45(won) 1725 107 86.25 66.42 Dhoni: 72 54(won) 2102 183* 100.09 89.63

    All that Bevan did as a finisher, Dhoni does it better.

    Why should the runs Dhoni has scored in India/Asia not count? Being a middle order batsman, talking about 100s scored by Dhoni is ridiculous. At any rate, Dhoni has more 100s than Bevan.

    What lesser bowlers? Who made Malinga a lesser bowler? Who scored that 100 vs Junaid/Ajmal/Gul in Jan?

  • vin on July 13, 2013, 13:24 GMT

    sundare_Chandare: So your pointing one capability foe each player (i.e) For hitting sixes: afridi, For Captaincy: Ponting, For ODI Finishing: Bevan. But please note: Dhoni has got all the above in one player, In addition to Wicket keeping. So nobody can compare with Dhoni.