It's the sort of deafening roar that fans who are now of slightly older vintage might remember with nostalgia for when India's second wicket used to fall. It reaches a crescendo in a second. However, this was not an international game involving India and featuring Sachin Tendulkar. And at Chepauk, the roar came at the fall of the third wicket for Chennai Super Kings, as MS Dhoni strode out.

Just like it used to happen with Tendulkar, the score - Super Kings were a fairly dire 27 for 3 in 4.5 overs - didn't matter.

Dhoni began in usual fashion, nudging here, pushing there and gathering runs in a trickle rather than a flood. That would come later, repaying the faith of the faithful with not just victory on Sunday, but victory orchestrated by their hero.

As Dhoni's, and Super Kings', innings against Rajasthan Royals progressed, the captain realised the slowness of the pitch that impeded strokeplay would be offset more and more as dew set in. Dew would make the ball come onto the bat better and make it more difficult for bowlers to control the ball. That was when Dhoni began to accelerate, and it was calculated. Where the bowling demanded respect, he respected it. Where he knew that he could muscle the ball, he exploded.

Dhoni's first 15 balls brought only 12 runs. The next 20 balls brought 28 runs. And at that fateful moment, with Dhoni on 40 off 35 in the 18th over, Dhawal Kulkarni bowled a shoulder-high full toss. The ball had slipped out of his hand, but the pronounced effect of the dew was nothing compared to the pronounced transformation in Dhoni. The free-hit went for a powerful six over wide long-off, and Dhoni rocketed away, 35 runs coming off the last 11 balls he faced, including three sixes to finish against a hapless Jaydev Unadkat.

He had the crucial luck that innings of this type - coming in with the bowlers on top, the track difficult, and the opposition having at least one gun bowler - needed. The man most likely to trouble Dhoni (and every Super Kings batsman for that matter), was Jofra Archer. Royals had given him the new ball, and he had promptly bowled a wicket-maiden in the second over, but after that Ajinkya Rahane took him out of the attack. As soon as Dhoni came in, Archer was brought back on. As Ben Stokes would say later, "We tried to attack him, getting him out was our main objective."


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Archer's first ball to Dhoni was back of a length, coming into the batsman at pace. It took an inside edge and trickled onto the stumps via boot - but hit them softly enough that the bails stayed in place. Dhoni could have been walking back for a two-ball duck, but all Royals could do was give wry smiles. He could have been walking back for 28 off 27 too, having clubbed a full delivery from Stokes through cover with some force. K Gowtham was perhaps a little slow to react inside the circle and only got his left fingertips to the ball. It was the kind of catch that either sticks, or doesn't.

Dhoni faced only two balls from Archer early in his innings, and by the time he batted against Stokes, he had already begun to get a feel for the conditions, having faced 19 balls. There were only two bowlers in the Royals attack who could have bashed a hard length into Dhoni's hips and cramped him for room. But Stokes didn't opt for that line, and by the time Dhoni faced Archer for a second time, it was the back end of the innings, where both Dhoni and dew were flowing freely.

At that point, there was almost an inevitability to it all.

"It's obvious what MS Dhoni does. He's one of the greatest finishers to have ever graced the game of cricket," Stokes said. "Especially when he comes early, I think every team knows what he's going to try and do to start with. I think he just takes it as deep as he possibly can. He's a great person to learn from and watch how he goes about his innings, whether it be setting a total or chasing a total."

Dhoni wasn't chasing a target set by the opposition, but he was chasing a par score that was being constantly revised in his mind. When Super Kings began batting, it seemed like anything in the region of 140 or 150 would be competitive. But as the dew set in with greater force, it became apparent that this would need to be revised upwards. Not only did Dhoni stay at the crease to be able to recalibrate his target, he had the nous and skill to reach that target too.

Archer bowled the 17th and 19th overs, and Dhoni was happy to knock singles. Two loose balls, both at the start of the over, were expertly carved through the offside for boundaries, but otherwise he was happy to respect the quality of the bowling, even in the death overs. It was almost the opposite against the duo of Kulkarni and Unadkat. There is possibly no pitch slow enough to counter the muscle of Dhoni against medium pace. The last three legal balls of the innings - split by a wide - Unadkat gave Dhoni no pace at all, and Dhoni simply used his immense strength to biff them over square leg, long-off and long-on.

Once again, Dhoni had shown that he could manipulate a slower-than-normal pitch. Once again, he showed that in the art of constructing an innings, when he doesn't have to go bang at the start, he remains masterful. Once again he showed that if he took the game deep, there was no telling how destructive he could be. Super Kings were well served by their bowlers up front getting key wickets. But it was Dhoni's acceleration that made the Royals top order take chances they otherwise wouldn't have. It was also Dhoni's acceleration that gave Super Kings the final cushion in what became a tight win.

"He's done that so many times. He's been through situations like this all his life, and he knows his game-plan," Imran Tahir said. "We're happy to have him in our team, because I don't want to play against him!"

His team-mates, those watching the game, and even the opposition knew what Dhoni was going to do. And he did it anyway.