'It was probably fair' - Glenn Maxwell, Jasprit Bumrah on MS Dhoni's slow innings
Dhoni registered India's second-lowest strike rate for an innings of at least 35 balls on his way to an unbeaten 29 off 37
MS Dhoni's unbeaten 29 off 37 balls in the wake of India's middle-overs collapse was "probably fair" according to Australia's Glenn Maxwell, and found support in fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah as well, who said it had given India something to fight with.
Dhoni had come in at the start of the 11th over following Rishabh Pant's run-out, which was the start of a collapse that had India fall from 80 for 2 to 109 for 7 in just under seven overs. India managed only one boundary shot - a six from Dhoni in the final over - in their last 11 overs and made a total of 46 runs in the final ten.
"We were trying our best," Bumrah said. "He was just trying to take the game deep and trying to get us to a safe total. I think we were short by 15-20 runs but still, we had something that we could fight [with]. So I think that was the plan which he was trying to execute."
Dhoni faced the majority of deliveries after KL Rahul's dismissal, racking up India's second-lowest strike rate for an innings of at least 35 balls, often refusing singles at the end in the company of India's long tail, and toiling unsuccessfully to find boundaries as Australia switched to shorter lengths. The batsmen below him in the order made a combined 4 off 17 balls.
"It [farming the strike] was probably fair enough," Maxwell said, "with the way the wicket was - being difficult to score for any batter, let alone a guy who is not known for his power-hitting in Chahal. MS is obviously a world-class finisher and even he was finding it hard to hit the middle of the bat. So, I think it was right of him to try and farm the strike. He hit a six in the last over and I think that's the sign - he hit one six and they only got seven of the over. Shows you how difficult it is. If you hold MS to one boundary in the last few overs, it's a pretty big effort."
India had made a brisk start after being put in. Despite losing Rohit Sharma early, they'd found a 55-run stand between KL Rahul and Virat Kohli that had made strokeplay appear fairly easy. But their wickets, on either side of the sensational run-out of Pant by Jason Behrendorff, began a slide that India could not deal with in the face of tight bowling.
"I think as soon as you give width to any team, they can hurt you," Maxwell said. "Once we went straight and once the Powerplay was done, we saw Virat come down the pitch trying to create something off Zampa, who's known for his accuracy, known for hitting the stumps a lot. We created [a situation of] India taking a risk rather than us trying something.
"So I think it was just us being patient a bit longer with the ball. And then, KL Rahul's dismissal. We probed away. He hadn't really gotten where he could take the game away from us, and then he tried to go over mid-off and we were able to create that wicket. I suppose India wouldn't have known what was a par score on that wicket and we certainly didn't know either. And only once we batted on it did we realised how difficult it was."
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo