All through this season of slumping performances, India have not shown the diligence a team in transition should. One such area has been the top-order batsmen failing to anchor the innings once they get set.
It was no different on Tuesday in the second one-day international against England. Despite electing to bat on a pitch that slowed down as predicted, the hosts were in danger of frittering away the advantage at the packed Nehru Stadium. In the end, it required a dazzling innings from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and an all-round effort from Ravindra Jadeja to reduce it to a one-sided affair.
India won by a massive 127 runs in the end with 14 overs to spare to bounce back in the five-match series.
Dhoni has been the target over his captaincy. Many feel he continues to be at the helm due to circumstances than merit. But Dhoni, the batsman, has been on another planet, untouched by any pressure.
Not for nothing is he regarded as one of the finest finishers in one-day cricket. On Tuesday, the top order again failed. Dhoni has refused to promote himself from No 6, but still had to walk in early, after Virat Kohli fell in the 27th over. He also watched Suresh Raina fall at the end of the batting powerplay overs. Then he exploded.
With Dhoni it is about power, placement and discipline. There is no frustration even if he has to play out three dot balls in a row. He even left some outside off-stump with a flourish. Jade Dernbach tried to upset him, exchanging words after coming in the way on his follow through as Dhoni scrambled for a single.
His recent back problem means his trademark helicopter shots come at the price of some pain. Using a bat weighing over 1300 grams adds to that effort. But reared on tennis-ball cricket, it comes naturally. The shots flew to all parts of the ground. “The length they bowl at the death helps me get under the ball. It's not easy, but I have been playing it from an early stage.”
Jadeja, also under pressure, teed off straightaway. His 37-ball 61 not out (8x4, 2x6) and the 96-run partnership with Dhoni saw 68 runs flow in the last five overs, pretty much sealing the game there. Jadeja was named man-of-the-match.
Dhoni fell to Dernbach in the final over, caught in the deep. The bowler pumped his fists, but knew who had won. He ended up with 2/73 from nine overs as Dhoni's explosive power, which targetted him and Steve Finn, produced seven fours and two sixes in his 66-ball 72.
That helped paper over the top-order troubles. Gautam Gambhir again fell as Dernbach bowled him through the gate and Finn dealt with Ajinkya Rahane in similar fashion at the other end.