Pandya, Dhoni take India to 281

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50 overs India 281 for 7 (Pandya 83, Dhoni 79, Coulter-Nile 3-44) Australia
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Hardik Pandya’s sensational six-hitting rescued India from 87 for 5, and MS Dhoni carried on the good work started by him to take India to 281 for 7, which was a challenging total – if there is no dew – on a pitch expected to slow down and help India’s two wristspinners. The innings had everything: early wickets to extra bounce, a superb catch to send Virat Kohli back, the Pandya counterattack, the Dhoni solidarity, but eventually perhaps Steven Smith’s uncharacteristic dropped catches at slip proved to be crucial. While Rohit Sharma didn’t cash in on his reprieve, Pandya converted his 13 off 18 into 83 off 66 post being given a life.

Nathan Coulter-Nile and Pat Cummins made life difficult for India’s top order with the Chennai track offering them bounce they will struggle to find on an average Indian ODI surface. Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey all perished looking for a drive outside off against Coulter-Nile; Rahane and Kohli might have got away with the loose shots on pitches with lower bounce. Kohli was especially unfortunate as Glenn Maxwell at point flew and plucked a one-hander over his head and behind his back. A ball before that, Smith had dropped a sitter at second slip to allow Rohit to continue with his innings.

Rohit’s innings continued but not for too long as he and Kedar Jadhav failed to convert their starts and fell to bouncers from Marcus Stoinis on a two-paced pitch. It could be argued they could have shown more patience especially when the captain chose to bat first – only for the third time out of 17 tosses he has won – expecting this to be a challenging surface. Rohit fell for 28, Jadhav for 40, but the next man in timed his charge perfectly, against the spin of Adam Zampa, making him the fourth recipient of his three straight sixes in international cricket in 2017. All four are spinners.

Smith will look back at how easily it all went wrong after all the good work. Thew new-ball bowlers bowled perfectly, Stoinis continued the good work, and Smith remained aggressive by bringing back Cummins and Coutler-Nile searching for wickets. With his second ball back, in the 28th over, Coulter-Nile drew a regulation edge from Pandya, but Smith at slip was up too early, failing to get to this low offering.

Smith had to eventually go back to Zampa in the 33rd over. You could see Pandya fancied him immediately winding up to each of the three deliveries he faced from Zampa first up. All three were too full for him to hit in the air so he got singles down the ground. In the 37th over, though, Pandya found the perfect length to hit, but only after nearly falling in frakish manner. To the second ball of this over, Australia had a straight mid-on despite there being long-on and long-off behind him. This is a fielder Dhoni has previously used for big straight hitters such as Pandya’s Mumbai Indians team-mate Kieron Pollard. Pandya managed to chip a full toss just over the man’s outstretched hand. You wonder if the placement was deliberate because off went the man after that ball.

With the next three balls it wouldn’t have mattered where the fielders were as Pandya found each of them to be in his swinging arc and swung them clean and straight for sixes. He did the same to Stoinis later before Smith backed Zampa to bowl another over with Pandya still unbeaten. Pandya managed another six off him before Zampa found a bit of drift, making him go across the line towards midwicket, and getting an edge for short third man to gobble.

Eight-seven for five had become 207 for 6 in the 41st over, and Dhoni had barely flexed a muscle until now despite the huge noise his every move drew from a “home” crowd in Chennai. In his 66 balls, which got him 40 runs, Dhoni didn’t hit a single boundary. Now, though, the stage was set with recovery done and the final few overs to go. So deliberate was his innings that outside the one top-edged hook off Coulter-Nile, Dhoni hit boundaries only off one man: James Faulkner, who has become the weak link in the Australian bowling.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar provided Dhoni ample support with 32 off 30, hitting five fours himself, as Dhoni scored 39 off the last 22 balls he faced. Pandya said Dhoni and he were talking of somehow getting to 230, but they had carried India much further.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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