MS Dhoni played one of the better knocks of his career, infact the best ever by an Indian Captain against Australia to help his team pile up 354 for 7 in the 2nd ODI at Nagpur. The total put up by India is also a record against the Aussies beating the previous best of 315 at Kochi in 2001. The Aussies have never gone past 300 in any chase against India for the record. Mahendra Singh Dhoni led from the front scoring a brilliantly paced 124 from just 107 balls. He was well supported by Gautam Gambhir initially and later by Suresh Raina, both left handers stuck superb half centuries.
Having put to bat first, India were rocked back by the early exit of Sachin Tendulkar. The master batsman was lured into a false drive on the up by Siddle in the 4th over. It was a whitish wicket at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur. Although it promised a lot of runs, the fast bowlers had a lot of pace and bounce in it. Sehwag kept the pressure on the Aussie new bowlers with regular boundaries, but in the 11th over spooned a simple catch off Johnson to mid off. It was just moments after he had smashed Mitchell Johnson for a straight six. Ponting had held the bowling powerplay back to wait for Sehwag’s exit. Sehwag blasted 40 from 31 balls with 6 fours and a six.
Returning back from a finger injury, Yuvraj Singh didn’t show any signs of rustiness and straightaway got into the groove of striking the ball well. In the company of the steady Gambhir, Yuvraj meant business after lofting Hauritz high over long off for a six. But what was going to be a highly entertaining knock was cut short by a brilliant caught and bowled from Hilfenhaus straight after drinks. Yuvraj fell for a 24-ball 23 and India were in trouble at 97 for 3 in 15.1 overs. Skipper MS Dhoni joined Gambhir at this stage and a big partnership was very critical for India to stay in the match on a good batting track.
The fourth wicket partnership between Gambhir and MS Dhoni started off through plenty of short singles and it prospered well after Ponting brought on spin at both ends. The two batsmen went onto put up a lovely platform and it was only in the 34th over that the stand was broken when Gambhir was run out backing too far at the non-striker end. The left hander got his second consecutive fifty, this time much better with a score of 76 from 80 balls with 6 fours. The fourth wicket stand was worth 119 runs.
India had to hold back its batting powerplay until the 40th over as it needed a small partnership between MS Dhoni and Raina to settle things after Gambhir’s fall at 216 for 4. The bowling powerplay didn’t yield many runs until the last over from Johnson which went for plenty to bring some much needed momentum in the innings. Once into the mood, both MS Dhoni and Raina were unstoppable. Dhoni raced away to his fifth century thanks to a couple of sixes and Raina got a fifty in no time at the other end. Both batsmen got dismissed only in the final over and by then India had climbed up a mountain already! Dhoni’s 124 had 9 fours and 3 sixes while Raina’s 62 from 50 balls had 6 fours and a six. Hilfenhaus and Johnson both had nightmares going for nearly 80 runs each in their quota of 10 overs.
The homeside looks safe to win this second ODI and the only thing that is favourable for the Aussies is the huge amount of dew that is expected to hit the outfield. But 355 is certainly a lot of runs and would need atleast two batsmen to play the big knocks.