It didn't take MS Dhoni long to realise this was not a quick pitch. As early as the first over, he had moved his second slip to a fine gully and placed him a little close too. Almost like a wide fourth slip standing a couple of paces up. In the fifth over, Alastair Cook got a shortish, widish delivery that he didn't cut whole-heartedly, playing just a chop, right into the ankles of Suresh Raina at that fine short gully.
Ever since the start of the South Africa tour last year, Dhoni has been obsessed with the leg slip and leg gully. It initially looked like a plan just for Graeme Smith's strong leg-side play, but the presence of that fielder almost everywhere for many other batsmen, and for both spinners and quicks, has been a source of frustration for observers. In this match, too, when Eoin Morgan and Joe Root got a partnership going and limited Dhoni's catching options, the India captain went for a leg slip as opposed to a regulation one. Finally, at long last, that leg slip got a catch. Morgan moved across to Ravindra Jadeja, got inside the line, closed the face, played it with the turn, and found that man Raina again. Dhoni stood and clapped nonchalantly.
While wicketkeeping has not evolved as much as batting and bowling with the advent of shorter formats of the game, one of the modern features is wicketkeepers standing in front of the stumps to save that half a second when they have to whip the bails off. On some occasions, though, you can come in the way of a direct hit. Not Dhoni. His knowledge of where he is with relation to the stumps is phenomenal. He showed it in this game. First he deflected a throw, from in front of the stumps, by opening the face of his glove to hit the stumps, but couldn't beat the batsman. Later in the innings, though, when Raina threw from short third man, Dhoni was in front of the stumps again. This time Dhoni knew the throw was accurate even though the stumps were behind him, and made way for the ball. Chris Woakes was caught short.
In the third over of the day, Ajinkya Rahane made a diving save at cover. He saved four runs. As per the modern convention all the fielders, led by Raina, converged on Rahane to congratulate him in a manner mildly more animated than that of the 1970's bowlers after taking a wicket. The change this time was Dhoni, who ran nearly 30 yards from his wicketkeeping position to pat Rahane. Only fielding efforts manage to draw such emotion from Raina. Later in the day he was seen clearly cross when an outfielder was slow to come around and conceded a second.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo