Mon, 22 Jul 2019

Why MS Dhoni refused those three singles

ESPN
22 Apr 2019, 06:52 GMT+10

Chennai Super Kings lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore by one run. MS Dhoni refused three singles in the 19th over.

Viewed next to each other, without context, those two facts might suggest that the missed singles cost Super Kings the match. This isn't true, of course. Dhoni was set, and backed himself to hit the boundaries his team needed when they required 36 off the last two overs. And when it came down to 26 off the last six balls - a final-over task no team has ever pulled off in the IPL - he hit Umesh Yadav's first five balls for 4, 6, 6, 2, 6, leaving Super Kings on the doorstep of victory.

Still, why didn't he take those singles, especially when the man at the other end, Dwayne Bravo, was eminently capable of the same sort of hitting?

Asked this question, Dhoni said the nature of the surface meant it was difficult for a new batsman to the crease - Bravo had only faced three balls at that point - to start middling the big hits straightaway. Given that he himself was batting on 51 at that point, Dhoni felt he was better equipped to handle that task.

"I think it was still difficult at the death," Dhoni told the host broadcaster in his post-match interview. "If you bowl that back of a length it was slightly spongy, it was not really coming on to the bat, which meant the new batsman who would have come, he would have also found it slightly difficult.

"Since I have played so many deliveries, I can afford to take that risk, because a lot of runs were needed. I think 10 or 12 deliveries, we needed some close to 40 runs or 36 runs or something like that, which meant a lot of boundaries were needed.

"So yes, right now you can calculate, two runs over there, one run over there, and we are through, because we lost by one run, but at the same time what you have to see is what if there were a few dot balls, whether we could have got those extra boundaries or not."

Parthiv does a Dhoni

Dhoni's assault on Umesh left Super Kings needing two runs off the last ball. What would Umesh do? Hope and pray, primarily, but he sent down a slower offcutter, fairly wide of off stump.

Looking to steer the ball through point, Dhoni missed, and Parthiv Patel, who had shed his right wicketkeeping glove, picked the ball up and threw down the stumps at the striker's end to catch Shardul Thakur just short of completing what would have been a match-tying bye.

It was a moment of calm amid swirling emotions, reminiscent of MS Dhoni's glove-in-pocket run-out - though he ran to the stumps instead of throwing, on that occasion - to clinch India's last-ball win over Bangladesh in the 2016 World T20, at the same ground.

Parthiv said he had been conscious even earlier in the over that he might be called upon to effect such a run-out. He also said the line from Umesh - outside off stump - was part of the plan, to make Dhoni hit towards the shorter boundary and reduce his chances of running two.

"Last ball I knew there was only one way," Parthiv said at the post-match presentation. "If he gets beaten there was only one chance, because we were trying for Umesh to bowl outside off stump, and he missed it, and that was our plan, because it was the shorter side of the boundary, that's where two runs are difficult to take, and he missed it.

"And I was warming up from ball number three, that this situation might come, so I gave away my gloves, and luckily it hit the stumps."

What were Virat Kohli's thoughts before the last ball, and what did he tell the bowler and his fielders? Not very much.

"We've said a lot of things in the nine games, but if you don't have confidence when you're running in with the ball, or when you're fielding the ball you don't have the confidence to make a play, then none of those things really matter," Kohli said.

"So in the last couple of games we've just told the guys, go out there and do your own thing, take ownership of the decisions that you make, and senior cricketers like AB [de Villiers], like Parthiv, they make good decisions under pressure. I think it was outstanding of Parthiv to have the awareness that it might be down to a run-out as well.

"It was the last thing I was expecting, and credit to Umesh as well, coming back off the last ball, these are the things that matter, you know? Having been smoked for five balls, he comes back and he beats MS [Dhoni], who was striking it so well, so these are the things you can take a lot of heart from, because in T20 cricket you are going to be put under the pump, it's how quickly you bounce back that matters, and tonight was an example of that."

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