Dhoni's maiden dazzler
Mahendra Singh Dhoni slashed, pulled, hoicked, drove and even defended, and brought up his maiden Test century
At 281 for 5 with Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar gone, India still needed 108 runs to avoid the follow-on. Shoaib Akthar had his tail up and was steaming in with the second new ball. But Mahendra Singh Dhoni slashed, pulled, hoicked, drove and even defended, and brought up his maiden Test century during an unbeaten partnership of 160 with Irfan Pathan for the sixth wicket.
Shoaib made Dhoni hop around initially but eventually both he and Danish Kaneria went for runs as Dhoni played his naturally brash game. Dhoni took 23 runs off the 14 balls from Shoaib, and his 28 runs of 25 Kaneria deliveries included three massive sixes. Abdul Razzaq managed to slow him down by pitching the ball on a good length most of the time. He went at only 3.56 runs per over against Dhoni.
After negotiating the second new ball, both Dhoni and Pathan rarely looked in any discomfort. Dhoni was in control of 104 of the 124 deliveries he faced and Pathan was even better, in control of nearly 86% of the balls faced. Tendulkar's dismissal had put India in a precarious situation but Dhoni, batting on 13 off eight balls at the time, counterattacked superbly and brought up his fifty off just 34 deliveries. But after tea, he buckled down and his next fifty runs was relatively slower, coming off 59 balls as he and Pathan saw off the final session.
George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo