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Dhoni destroys Pakistan

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Last updated on: April 05, 2005 18:55 IST

Pakistan must be hating the very mention of Virender Sehwag. Well, they can add another name -- that of Mahendra Singh Dhoni -- to their must-hate list. The duo combined to lead India to a 58-run victory in the second One-Day International on Tuesday.

In the three-Test series, Sehwag scored 544 runs, at 90.66, and he hasn't put a foot wrong in the first two matches of the One-Day International series either.

His brilliant 74, off just 40 balls, set India on course for a huge total before Dhoni, batting at number three, hit a breezy 148 as India posted 356 for 9 at the end of their allotted 50 overs.

In reply, Pakistan were bowled out for 298 in 44.1 overs.

Left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra bagged four wickets for 72 runs.

India innings

Sourav Ganguly did his best deed of the day when he won the toss and elected to bat at the ACA-VDCA stadium in Visakhapatnam.

Both teams went into the game with unchanged squads. Pakistan again chose to rest Danish Kaneria even though he was their best bowler during the Test series. One would have thought that Sachin Tendulkar's success with the ball at Kochi would have convinced them to play a leg-spinner.

As Sehwag and Tendulkar walked out to bat on a pitch that was expected to favour the batsmen, Pakistan would have known that a quick breakthrough was important.

They got their wish when Tendulkar (2) was run-out by a direct throw from Yousuf Youhana in the third over. But India had already scored 26, thanks to some big-hitting by Sehwag, who started his innings with an inside edge off Sami, but then proceeded to play superbly.

Everyone had expected Ganguly to walk out after Tendulkar, but was greeted to the sight of a stockily-built Dhoni walking out. On one hand, it could have been greeted as a sign that India were looking to keep the momentum going. But, on the other, it was also an indication of the bad form that Ganguly has been in.

But the ploy worked. In just 5.1 overs, the duo brought up the fifty of the innings with Sehwag contributing 35 and Dhoni, 11.

After just 10.4 overs, India brought up their 100 and Sehwag had sped away to his 17th ODI fifty off just 26 balls. The first fifty of the Indian innings had taken 31 balls and the second came off 33. The run-rate was being maintained.

Sami's first three overs cost 33 runs but Naved-ul Hasan did a good job in containing the batsmen. He bowled just short of a good length and, in the process, did not give the batsmen anything to drive at.

Dhoni got into the act as well and he made a very good case for opening the innings with Sehwag. Imagine having Dhoni and Sehwag opening, with Tendulkar and Ganguly coming up next.

India were cruising at this stage and even though Inzamam rotated his bowlers it offered little respite to the visitors. Sehwag, meanwhile, looked well on course towards scoring the fastest century by an Indian in ODIs. In one Afridi over, he slammed four boundaries off the first four balls and then nonchalantly took a single off the fifth to prepare for the next over.

But then he was dismissed trying to flick the ball over mid-wicket. The bat turned in his hand as he played the shot and the ball went to Salman Butt, who timed his jump well and took a good overhead catch. (122 for 2)

Sehwag had scored a spellbinding 70 off just 40 balls, inclusive of 12 boundaries and two sixes. The partnership for the second wicket was an amazing 96 runs in just 10.2 overs at a run-rate of 9.29.

Once a team gets a start like this, the rest of the batsmen just need to keep their heads and get as many runs as possible.

Ganguly, at long last, walked in to join Dhoni. As he walked in, one could almost feel the weight on his shoulders. The Indian skipper was feeling the heat and he was yet to face a ball.

To give Pakistan their due, they bowled well to Ganguly. And, but for one shot, when the left-hander made room outside the off-stump and slammed one four over mid-off, the Indian skipper struggled.

Ganguly (9 off 22) was eventually clean bowled by a leg-stump yorker from Sami. (140 for 3)

The run-rate dropped from the dizzying heights it reached during Sehwag's stay at the wicket, but at the end of 21 overs, India had scored 150.

Rahul Dravid walked in next and almost immediately settled into a good rhythm. He milked the singles with ease and also inspired Dhoni, who seemed to be looking for the singles instead of the big hits.

Dhoni started going for the big shots once again. There is a certain edginess to his batting that reminds one of Sehwag in his early days. Not very elegant at the pitch, but Dhoni's forte is his power; he used that very well as he stroked his way to his first ODI ton off just 88 balls.

After 30 overs, India had scored 211 for 3. After 40, the hosts were on 280. The fast-tiring Dhoni was now starting to throw his bat at everything with deadly effect.

Wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal muddled a stumping chance off Afridi when Dhoni was on 126. The 23-year-old made the Pakistanis pay almost immediately. Two balls later, the ball was dispatched over the cover boundary. A wide followed and then another six and a powerfully struck four straight down the ground. The last four balls of the over had yielded 17 runs.

But it was almost too good to last. The end had to come and it did. Dhoni went out swinging hard at delivery fired into his legs by Mohammad Hafeez, got the height but not the distance, and Shoaib Malik at deep mid-wicket took a good catch. (289 for 4)

Dhoni had scored 148, the highest score by an Indian against Pakistan, off just 123 balls, with 15 bounadries and four sixes. The partnership with Dravid was worth 149.

There were two magic moments in course of Dhoni's innings, and neither had anything to do with the free-flowing player's shot-making.

The first was when he completed his century; the second, when he was finally out.

On both occasions, the cameras panned to the team dressing room -- and there, up on his feet, a smile as wide as all outdoors, stood Virender Sehwag, furiously applauding.

Sehwag clapped right through as Dhoni walked into the pavilion. And as the young wicket-keeper walked up to him, Viru grabbed his hand and slapped him on the back, his smile getting even wider.

The signal was clear: Sehwag, who increasingly has become the go-to guy every time India needs quick runs, was recognizing the emergence of a kindred spirit, a young lad without a shadow of fear in his heart or doubt in his mind.

Dravid, who reached his 50 off 57 balls, departed in the next over from Rana after scoring 52. (300 for 5)

The rest of the batsmen had it easy in the sense that they had to come out and swung their bats at everything without worrying about wickets. And that's exactly what they did. Yuvraj Singh (15 off 10 balls), Laxmipathy Balaji (17 off 13) and Zaheer Khan (17 off 9) helped India post 356 for 9.

Pakistan innings

Balaji and Ashish Nehra opened the attack. Nehra had looked more effective with the new ball in the first one-dayer and it was a good move by Ganguly to bring him on before Zaheer.

The Pakistan chase suffered a big blow early on when Shahid Afridi was clean bowled by Nehra through the gate for a duck in the second over of the innings. It was exactly the start that India was looking for.

Abdul Razzaq walked in next and it was probably the best move Pakistan could have made in the circumstances. After Afridi, Razzaq is the most ferocious hitter of the ball in the Pakistan team.

And the effects were noticed almost immediately. The right-hander, who scored 34 runs off the 17 balls he faced from Nehra, hit the left-armer out of the attack. The charge was expected. But Balaji, at the other end, proved more difficult to get away.

After ten overs, Pakistan were 71 for 1, cruising along well and the pitch was not looking too difficult.

For a moment it looked as if Pakistan had decided that Butt would play the anchor role and Razzaq the pinch-hitter. Zaheer was brought into the attack and kept things quiet for a while but he did not quite look like getting a wicket.

Then Ganguly made another good bowling change by getting Nehra back into the attack. Butt tried to go after him straightaway, charged down the track to a short delivery outside the off-stump and swung hard. The ball took the top edge and went high up in the air just behind the wicket, where Sehwag took an easy catch. (89 for 2)

Razzaq was joined by Inzamam. The all-rounder and Inzamam are best friends, but today is a day they'd like to forget. The duo put on 40 runs in six overs before a dreadful misunderstanding saw the Pakistan skipper being run-out.

Tendulkar, bowling round the wicket, turned one into Razzaq's legs. The batsman played it down the leg-side and in the process almost faced the wicket-keeper. Inzamam, sensing a quick single, called and set off, only to see Razzaq stand his ground. Inzamam was stranded as Harbhajan's throw went straight to Tendulkar, who did the needful. (129 for 3)

Inzamam was livid, and even as he walked off he yelled, 'My call, that was my call.' He flung the bat into the dressing room area as he reached the pavilion. The Pakistan skipper was indeed an angry man.

It was a vital breakthrough for India as this was the one man who could have played the match-wining knock for the visitors.

Youhana joined Razzaq and the duo set about trying to undo the damage. Razzaq had played a blinder, reaching his 19th ODI fifty off 45 balls, but now he needed to do what Dhoni had done for India.

Tendulkar did a good job containing Razzaq and Youhana, who quickly warmed to the task. Runs were coming at a quick pace and throughout the innings there was not much to choose between the two sides. The one area in which India had an advantage was wickets.

The duo added 47 runs before Razzaq fell to Yuvraj Singh, another of Ganguly's shrewd bowling changes. Yuvraj, like Tendulkar, bowled round the wicket. The result, a frustrated Razzaq edged one down the leg-side and Dhoni stayed down to hold on to a very difficult, low chance.

Razzaq scored 88 off 93 balls and Pakistan's chances of winning the match went with his wicket. (176 for 4)

Youhana was still at the wicket but to chase 356 you needed to have specialist batsmen -- lots of them. Pakistan were left with just three, Youhana, Shoaib Malik and Mohd. Hafeez.

Malik faltered after scoring just 12, as Yuvraj picked his second wicket. (204 for 5).

Hafeez (7) didn't last too long either with the left-arm orthodox spinner doing the damage again. (222 for 6)

But somehow Pakistan kept fighting on. Most teams would have succumbed meekly but Pakistan put on a brave show. Youhana took up the attack now.

By the 35th over, Pakistan (240) were actually ahead of India (236) in terms of runs scored. But it was the loss of wickets that came back to hurt Pakistan.

In the end, the pressure proved too much. Youhana perished while going for a big hit off a short ball on the middle stump and Nehra had struck once again for India.

The former vice-captain scored a superb 71 off just 56 balls, with two fours and five sixes. (263 for 7)

From this point on, Akmal, who was last man out, waged a lone battle, scoring 41 off 28 balls as the wickets tumbled around him and India won by 58 runs.

In the end, it was an easy victory, but had Inzamam stayed there a little longer things could have been different.

India are up 2-0 in the six-match series.

The third ODI is in Jamshedpur on April 9.

Ashish Magotra