MS Dhoni, one of the greatest limited overs cricketer to have played for India, has often been a subject of criticism for his overseas performances in Test cricket; both in batting as well as leadership. One of the major point of criticism comes from fact that Dhoni does not have a hundred ouside Asia in Tests.
Though the fact about the lack of overseas hundreds cannot be ignored, one cannot complete his judgement on Dhoni’s overseas Test batting without looking at some of his crucial yet underrated knocks. That attack is the best form of defense is evident from most of Dhoni’s top Test knocks. Here we look at 7 such knocks which were of utmost importance and highlight Dhoni’s batting credentials in Tests outside Asia:
7) 39 v New Zealand at Auckland, 2014
India were coming off a 0-1 series defeat against South Africa and the skipper was under immense pressure to deliver. India got off to a terrible start as the Kiwis piled up 503 in the first innings of the first Test, followed by yet another meek surrender by Indian batsmen. A fightback by bowlers in the second innings gave India a tough task of chasing 407.
India succumbed to another collapse as they let go yet another position of dominance. MS Dhoni was joined by Ravindra Jadeja and the two started to counter-attack. The approach resulted in quickfire 54-run partnership. Post the dismissal of Jadeja, Dhoni tried to take his side home as India still required 84 runs with just 3 wickets remaining.
Dhoni’s counter-attacking yet calculative knock kept India in the game as he farmed most of the strike himself. The valiant knock of 39 which included 6 fours against the rampaging kiwi bowlers finally came to an end as the skipper a slower bouncer from Wagner took Dhoni’s lower edge and the ball was dragged on to the stumps.
6) 82 v England at Nottingham, 2014
First Test of a long English tour and in walks the skipper at 6 with the scorecard reading 178/4. Murali Vijay was looking well set and needed someone to partner him. Dhoni adapted to the situation and curbed his natural counter-attacking instinct.
The duo stitched together a partnership of 126, which helped India steady the ship and post a respectable total. Throughout the innings Dhoni looked to be in full control and did not seem to be troubled by the Broad-Anderson duo. Like most of his Test knocks, the skipper tried to go after every bowler who seemed to exert pressure at any stage during his stay at the crease.
Looking well set for for a well-deserved hundred, a direct-hit from Anderson caught Dhoni short of the crease. The knock set the tone for a magnificent series with the bat for Dhoni.
5) 77 v England at Birmingham, 2011
Coming into the third Test of what turned out to be a disastrous tour for India, Dhoni’s side looked to win the remaining Tests to level the series 2-2. However, the hopes were shattered in just over 1 session as India were down to 92/5 in just 33 overs.
In walked the skipper, only to see Laxman and Mishra get dismissed in the span of next 6 overs. The skipper was left with no support and had no option other than taking the attack to the opposition. Dhoni went after every English bowler and scored a scintillating half-century.
The knock of 77 off 96 balls included 10 fours and 3 sixes. When the skipper looked all set to take India to a decent total, too much of attacking cost him. As he tried to smash the ball past the cover boundary, the delivery from Broad took the edge and went to Strauss at first slip. The brilliant counter-attacking knock pushed India from a sub-150 score to a 200-plus score, something the bowlers could fight for.
4) 71 v England at Manchester, 2014
Coming into the fourth Test of the series with the series level at 1-1, India got off to the worst possible start; losing 4 wickets inside 5 overs for just 8 runs. The Indian skipper joined Ajinkya Rahane at the crease as the two aimed to take India to a fighting total.
Forging a partnership of 54 with Rahane and 66 with Ashwin, Dhoni reached to his 50. Yet again falling short of partners, Dhoni had to counter-attack. Scoring 14 off 15 balls during the ninth-wicket partnership with Varun Aaron, Dhoni fell slogging a ball from outside the off to midwicket.
In an innings which saw 5 Indian batsmen going for a duck, Dhoni’s 71 was one of the lone bright spots and one cannot help but feel sorry for the lack of support from the other end.
3) 90 v South Africa at Centurion, 2010
Down and out for the majority of the first four days of Dhoni’s first tour to South Africa as the captain, India looked certain for a moral-dipping defeat. With a deficit of a massive 484 runs, India looked to bat their way to a draw. Steady start from the top order did raise some hopes but when the sixth wicket fell, India were still 208 runs behind.
In walked the skipper to join a well-set Sachin. However, Dhoni almost instantly took the pressure off his senior partner as he launched a brilliant counter-attack against an in-form trio of Steyn, Morkel and Tsotsobe. Within no time India recovered from staring at an innings defeat to a position to actually set a target, only to fall short by 25 runs.
In a 172-run partnership which lasted nearly 40 over, Dhoni scored a stroke-full 90 off just 106 balls, which included 14 boundaries. However, just when he looked set for his maiden Test ton outside Asia, a good-length ball from Steyn which nipped in and climbed nastily took Dhoni’s edge and Boucher caught while diving to his right. The knock and the partnership brought a lot of positivity in the side and India went on to dominate the next two Tests.
2) 82 v England at The Oval, 2014
A must-win game for India to level the 5-match series 2-2 and India were 6 down for a mere 44 runs on the board. Dhoni walked in at 6 at the end of the 16th over in the middle of a fiery spell by the Anderson-Broad-Woakes-Jordan quartet. The scorecard read 28-4 and soon 68-7, but Dhoni was steady at the other end.
With wickets falling at the other end like a pack of cards, Dhoni was left with no other option than going for the attack. Halfway into the second session on Day 1, India were all set for a double digit score as the ninth wicket fell at 90. Dhoni then shifted gears, scoring 50 off the 58 runs in the last wicket partnership off 56 balls.
The counter-attacking knock of 82 included 15 fours and a six and he was the last wicket to fall in the 61st over. Dhoni’s gutsy knock reduced the embarrassment to some extent as India posted 148 in the first innings. The skipper waged a lone battle with the bat yet another time in the series and went down fighting.
1) 76* v England at Lord’s, 2007
On his very first tour to England, the long-haired Dhoni known for his flashy stroke-play did show the responsible and reliable side of his batting. The first game of a 3-match series at Lord’s and India were struggling for a draw as they needed to survive a little over 4 sessions against an in-form home attack. With about 80 overs still remaining, half of the team was back in the pavilion.
Dhoni joined VVS Laxman as the scorecard read 145/5. The partnership lasted for almost 30 overs as Laxman was castled by Tremlett for 39. Though almost 2 sessions still remained, the appearance of drops of rain kept India’s hope alive. All India needed was Dhoni to forge partnerships with the tail till the rain gets heavier. And the wicket-keeper obliged.
Staying on the crease for close to 50 overs, Dhoni scored 76* from 159 balls. With 9 wickets down and the sky getting darker, Dhoni needed to farm the strike and shield Sreesanth from facing the English quicks. And he did not disappoint. Facing 23 balls in the 30-ball partnership, Dhoni, with the assistance of rain-gods, guided India to a draw. The match-saving knock in difficult conditions on the 5th day of a Test has to be Dhoni’s best overseas knock in Test cricket, more so because of the way he curbed his instincts and showed the maturity.
Source for Scoreboards – ESPNcricinfo