Did MS Dhoni know something even the local ground staff had no inkling of? At 7.59pm, when the Rising Pune Supergiants players and Sunrisers Hyderabad openers were taking their positions, Dhoni was seen gazing at the sky, almost waiting for the first drop of rain.
He wasn’t made to wait long.
Within a minute, just when the umpire was about to say ‘play’, rain arrived in irritating bursts to leave Hyderabad’s innings in disarray.
Not a target-setter
This IPL hasn’t been one for the target-setters. There has been confusion, edginess and even insecurity over what should be the best score to defend. Having lost four matches in a row, Dhoni was never going to bat first if he had won the toss.
But to supplant Albie Morkel, who had a productive last match, with Mitchell Marsh had more to it than what met the eye. It definitely had something to do with the pitch here, perhaps the most consistent strip this IPL. The intermittent showers, however, made Dhoni’s changes — Ashoke Dinda replacing Ankit Sharma being the other — match-altering by adding more juice to the pitch.
With the rain playing hide and seek, David Warner walked out to bat twice. On two more occasions, however, he would have been alerted of the possibility to venture out. The unpredictability played on his mind. Nothing else can otherwise explain how Warner was dismissed — hitting a short and wide Dinda delivery to Ajinkya Rahane at backward point.
That Dhoni was skeptical about Dinda was apparent in the way he used the pacer. A wicket maiden almost guarantees a longer spell but Dhoni was not swayed by Dinda’s Cristiano Ronaldo-like celebrations.
Fortunately for Pune, Hyderabad’s batting was worse than Dinda’s bowling. Peppering batsmen with short deliveries, Dinda in his second over snapped the patience of Aditya Tare, who could only manage a top edge trying to pull.
Dinda vindicated Dhoni’s changes but not more than Marsh, who gave a fine display of swing bowling in assisting conditions. The way he lured Eoin Morgan into flashing at an away-moving delivery was magical. And Morgan did himself no favour either by staying rooted to the crease.
If it hadn’t been for Dhoni, however, Marsh couldn’t have added his next scalp in the form of Moises Henriques.
And even though Dinda returned to blow hot and cold, he ensured Hyderabad didn’t get any late momentum by uprooting Naman Ojha’s stumps in the 17th over. Given their recent bowling travails, it was more than what Dhoni could have asked for.