Pandya, Dhoni rescue India

If you had heard him speak at the press conference after India demolished Sri Lanka, he reposed huge faith in wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.

Tottering at 76/6, all-rounder James Faulkner (32 from 25; 4*1, 6*1) played a lone hand but kept losing his partners as stumper Matthew Wade (9), Pat Cummins (9) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (2) failed to rise to the occasion.

Pacer Coulter-Nile made a stunning comeback to 50-over cricket by claiming opener Ajinkya Rahane (5), and skipper Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey (both for noughts) for the scorecard to read 11/3. "He just bowled a fraction full and paid the price". Smith, who had earlier dropped Rohit Sharma (28) at slips, let his team down in the 28th over. Kedar Jadhav is said to be most suitable and stable player at No. 6 while KL Rahul occupies the No. 4 spot?

The visitors were in command with India at 5-87 until MS Dhoni and Pandya combined for a match-winning stand of 118. Dhoni is captain, the thala, as far as Chennai is concerned. If there is movement off the wicket or in the air, then the edge comes into play.

"We can't afford to be dropping four or five catches and missing run outs as well". It might just have been a completely different story had he held on to the opportunity provided by Pandya at a crucial juncture in the game. Rahane was caught behind while trying to slash an away swinging delivery. Zampa collects a single off the first ball of the over. "I think it is very important to have that competitiveness in every series that you play". In the 37th over, though, Pandya found the flawless length to hit, but only after almost falling in freakish manner. Kohli and Dhoni may or may not be susceptible to the short ball, but the point is South Africa executed a set of discernible plans while defending a middling total. The fielder was removed after that ball.

In between India's national selectors have snatched their time in the sun, resting, rotating or dropping players without taking them into confidence, thus sending them highly complicated and confusing signals. While the simple mathematical implication of the target revision was that Smith's side had to tune into a T20 mindset, the presence of a second new ball skewed the situation significantly in India's favour.

"He's (Pandya) getting better and that's the best part of it".

A 200-plus score looked a distant dream for the hosts at that stage but Pandya and Dhoni had other ideas. And tee off he did, although smartly, as he took 39 off the last 22 balls he faced. But the bowler's 10 overs cost 66 runs. So deliberate was Dhoni's innings that outside the one top-edged hook off Coulter-Nile, he hit boundaries only off Faulkner.

Throw in limited-overs stars like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, as well as the focal point of the side, skipper and spiritual leader Virat Kohli and former captain MS Dhoni, who maintains an aura of calm and objective in the side, and you have a tremendous limited-overs side capable of dominating at home or away.

  • Julie Sanders