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Vijay Hazare Trophy: At Eden Gardens, a throwback Sunday for MS Dhoni

MS Dhoni took time to get into the groove before he started picking the gaps for singles and couples, and occasional boundaries.

ms-dhoni_ap-m MS Dhoni took time to get into the groove before he started picking the gaps for singles and couples, and occasional boundaries.

JHARKHAND were reeling at 43 /5 after losing the toss on a greenish Eden Gardens surface in their Vijay Hazare Trophy Group D fixture against Chhattisgarh and MS Dhoni was at the crease. The first ball he faced seemed to take a thick outside edge to the keeper. Chhattisgarh new ball operators, Pankaj Rao and A Kant Singh, were bending the newish ball alarmingly, and on the instance, Dhoni was trying to negate the movement with extra shuffle.

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But Singh’s delivery from the Club House end swung a little more than the Jharkhand captain had expected. The Chhattisgarh players started celebrating. But umpire R Sundar was unmoved. It wasn’t an easy pitch for batting. So Dhoni’s progress was a tad laborious. He was playing himself in but didn’t look comfortable to start with. Another edge fell short of the second slip and then, leggie Shubham Agarwal beat him with a flipper. It looked dead straight. Once again, Sundar was unmoved.

By the time Dhoni offered a third opportunity, a dolly to Mohammad Kaif at cover, he had reached 95. Kaif — the Chhattisgarh skipper dropped him and Dhoni sent Rao 10 rows back over long-on next ball to reach his seventh domestic ODI hundred.

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It was an innings of two halves. Dhoni took time to get into the groove before he started picking the gaps for singles and couples, and occasional boundaries.

Towards the back-end of the innings, he threw the proverbial kitchen sink. Dhoni has become more of a grafter of late. He now prefers to build his innings before calling upon the heavy artillery; heavier bats to be precise. From that perspective, things were nicely set up for him to play a big innings. His last ODI century, 134 against England in Cuttack, had come under similar circumstances. India were down to 25 /3 before Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh bailed them out.

On Sunday, in quieter surroundings — not more than 2,000 fans turned up on a languid morning — and against Chhattisgarh bowling, Dhoni needed some support at the other end. Shahbaz Nadeem put his hands up to be counted, coming at No. 8. A 151-run seventh wicket association resurrected Jharkhand. Their slog-over charge — 93 runs off the last 7.3 overs — was breathtaking. A 23-run over, bowled by off-spinner Sahil Gupta, proved to be the catalyst. Dhoni eventually fell off the final ball of the innings, scoring 129 runs off 107 balls. Those contentious umpiring decisions notwithstanding, no Chhattisgarh cricketer begrudged the hundred. They ran up to shake hands with Dhoni.

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Brief scores: Jharkhand 243/9 in 50 overs (MS Dhoni 129, S Nadeem 53; A Kant Singh 4/33) beat Chhattisgarh 165 in 38.4 overs (V Aaron 3/26, S Nadeem 3/36) by 78 runs.

First published on: 27-02-2017 at 01:08:14 am
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