Cape Town - MS Dhoni reminded his critics of precisely why he is India’s most valuable limited-overs player with a Man of the Match performance to square the ODI Freedom Series against the Castle Lager Proteas at 1-1 with a 22-run victory in the second of five matches at Indore on Wednesday.
As it happened: India v Proteas
India, having won the toss and not having been helped by the catastrophic run out of Virat Kohli, looked dead and buried when they collapsed to 125/6 after 30 overs according to the Cricket South Africa website.
But the one wicket of value they still had in hand was that of Dhoni, who rallied his bowlers around him and personally made sure that India batted out their 50 overs by turning down singles in the last 3 overs of the innings rather than let his No. 11 on strike.
He nevertheless compiled an unbeaten 92 (86 balls, 7 fours and 4 sixes) and, as his counterpart, AB de Villiers, had done in the first ODI, finished the innings with a defiant six.
He then handled his bowling attack superbly to defend a total of 247 which looked well short of par. He gave an early indication of his tactics when he brought his two specialist spin bowlers, Harbhajan Singh and Axar Patel, into the attack after only 5 overs.
Nevertheless the Proteas looked to have a 2-0 series lead in the bag after two good partnerships up front – 40 for the first wicket between Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock and 82 for the third between Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy. When Duminy was dismissed, coming in No. 4 ahead of De Villiers, who suffered a lower back strain, the target was only 114 runs in 26 overs with 7 wickets in hand.
As De Villiers admitted afterwards that the Proteas had put up a poor batting performance although they were not helped when their last remaining specialist batsman, Farhaan Behardien, got out in an unfortunate manner.
After that it was left to the bowlers to get the Proteas over the line and, although they came up short, there was at least evidence that Kagiso Rabada has the potential to develop into a bowling all-rounder. He was the last man standing at the end and again impressed with his calmness and maturity in a pressure situation, not to mention the quality of some of his strokes.
Du Plessis (51 off 56 balls, 6 fours) was the top scorer for the Proteas while Steyn (3/49) was the pick of their attack.
The third ODI will be played at Rajkot on Sunday at 10h00.
247/9 after 50 overs (Dhoni 92*, Steyn 3/49)
225 all out after 43.4 overs (Du Plessis 51, Patel 3/39, Kumar 3/41)