Defiant Dhoni carries India to fighting total

Indore, Oct 14 (IANS) Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni led from the front with a defiant 92 not out to help India post 247/9 in 50 overs against South Africa during their second One-Day International (ODI) at the Holkar Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday.

Walking in to bat with India in a spot of bother at 82/3 in the 18th over, Dhoni batted right till the end to notch up his 60th ODI fifty. The Indian captain smashed seven boundaries and four sixes during his 86-ball innings.

Dhoni’s fighting knock and Ajinkya Rahane’s 51 — his eighth half-century in ODIs — helped India put up a decent total even though the other batsmen came up short against the disciplined South African bowlers. Besides Dhoni, Rahane was the only other Indian batsman who managed to trouble the Proteas, hitting six boundaries during his 63-run stay in the middle.

Experienced fast bowler Dale Steyn was the most successful among the Proteas bowlers with figures of 3/49 from his 10 overs. Pacer Morne Morkel (2/42) and leg-spinner Imran Tahir (2/42) also were partly successful while rookie pacer Kasigo Rabada returned figures of 1/43.

J.P. Duminy was the only South African bowler to take a bit of punishment from the Indian batsmen, giving away 59 runs in nine wicketless overs.

Electing to bat after winning the toss, India were off to a poor start when Kasigo Rabada uprooted Rohit Sharma’s leg stump with a full length delivery which beat the Mumbai lad with its pace.

Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan tried to steady the boat with a 56-run partnership from 65 balls before Dhawan was deceived by a slower delivery from Morkel. A horrible mix-up saw Virat Kohli run out before Rahane missed one from Tahir only to see the ball hit his stumps.

Axar Patel was also unable to post a substantial contribution and was beaten by the pace of a Dale Steyn delivery to be trapped leg before.

But Dhoni continued his efforts to rebuild the innings with Bhuvneshwar Kumar giving him steady support from the other end. The Indian captain was initially a bit cautious, relying more on the ones and twos to keep the scoreboard ticking rather than go for the big shots. But he gradually began to open up as the innings progressed, hitting Duminy for a four and a six in the 37th over.

Bhuvneshwar was batting steadily at the other end as the duo added 43 runs between them from 60 balls. Tahir brought the partnership to an end when he sneaked one through the gap between Bhuvneshwar’s bat and and pad.

That brought Harbhajan Singh to the middle and the feisty ‘Turbanator’ helped his skipper jack up the scoring rate with a run-a-ball 22. Harbhajan hit a couple of boundaries and a six before he lashed out a wideish delivery from Steyn only to see Quinton de Kock do the honours behind the stumps.

But by that time the hosts were well on their way to a decent score.

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