A botched-up chase is not a term you’d usually associate with the Indian cricket team. They either perish early or go all the way in style. But, not for the first time in recent memory, with MS Dhoni as the ‘finisher’ at one end, the team managed to lose a match they had all but won. After a second wicket partnership of 150 runs chasing a target of 303, it’s surprising that they still fell short by 5 runs. After one of their openers scored more than half their runs, it’s surprising that Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Stuart Binny couldn’t combine to score 35 of the last 25 balls. Perhaps, though, in hindsight, it isn’t so surprising.
Rohit Sharma batted till the 47th over in searing heat, and had to stay perhaps one more over to seal victory. India had 7 wickets in hand, while Dhoni prodded and struggled at the other end. But this wasn’t the reason India lost the match, though it was the immediate reason they collapsed and fell short.
The loss was as heartbreaking as the Hyderabad loss back in 2009, when Sachin Tendulkar
scored 175 chasing 351 against Australia, and the team fell short by 3 runs. Rohit
’s huge effort was also only the third ever individual score of 150 and above, after Tendulkar
, in a losing ODI cause.
Let’s take a look at the key factors that did India in at Kanpur.
1. AB de Villiers
He averages over 70 in India, and has five centuries. He scored his first 54 runs at a run a ball, and then finished on 104 of 73 balls. The last five Indian overs cost 65 runs, and the last two – 40. This death bowling, combined with AB’s ingenious stroke-making, was perhaps the prime reason India lost the match, despite Rohit’s timeless innings. Simply put, their bowling was worse than the best of their batting, and there was no way South Africa were ever in the fray to reach 300 even after 45 overs, when they were always going at around 5 an over. But AB and Farhaan Behardien switched it on, and that was that. AB hit the last ball of the innings for six and brought up his century. India lost by 5 runs.
2. R. Ashwin
India’s best bowler strained his ankle after bowling only 4 overs of his spell, which meant that Dhoni’s fifth bowler was Binny and Raina. Raina only went for 37 of his 7, but Binny leaked 63 runs of his 8 overs, there by raising more questions about his utility to a side brimming with aggression. Ashwin was again on course to bowl a defining spell, giving only 14 runs and getting Quinton de Kock, but as luck would have it, he must now sit out the remainder of the series, while Harbhajan Singh has been drafted into the squad – another resoundingly defensive step in the face of defeat.
In hindsight, it’s easy to say that he scored 60 at number 3, a spot that Virat Kohli
has made his own, and contributed well to the partnership that lasted half the innings. But he took 84 deliveries for his 60 in a run-a-ball chase, thereby making Rohit
take the risks while he struggled to time the ball and get the boundaries. Rahane
still looked uncomfortable, and Rohit
made him look better than he played. As a result, Kohli
came in and used some valuable time to get settled, which raised the rate to above 8 an over – again forcing Rohit
to run hard and take more risks. The order has been tampered with to accommodate Rahane
in the top order, and this may not be such a smart decision in ODI cricket. Agreed that Ambati Rayadu
doesn’t inspire much confidence in the middle order, but for some time now, Rahane
has struggled to rotate the strike and keep things moving in the middle overs.
4. Imran Tahir
He was out of the game when Rohit Sharma slammed him for two sixes and looked in no trouble, but he came roaring back to get an exhausted Rohit, before snagging the wicket of a clueless Raina – who tried to hit the wrong one against the spin and top-edged it to long on. This put the pressure on MS Dhoni, who was till then depending on Rohit to keep things going. Pressure is not something Dhoni thrives on anymore, and he could barely get bat on ball till the last few overs. And by then, it was too late. Tahir had taken the match-changing wicket.
5. Kagiso Rabada
Cometh the moment, cometh the boy-turned-man. The 20-year old speedster was treated with disdain by Rohit once again, but continued to bang in the ball short. In the final over, against Dhoni in his last-over zone of batsman-vs-bowler, with 11 runs to get, he continued with the line and made Dhoni look as graceful as roadkill while going for his desperate lunges. The back of the length bowling, combined with accuracy and speed, got the Indian captain and sent India into a tailspin before Binny once again demonstrated his incompetence with the bat under pressure.