Dhoni blames shot selection for India’s defeat

Touring team beaten by South Africa for second one-day international in a row, but captain pleased with bowling, Anand Vasu reports from Durban.

Hashim Amla, right, and Quinton de Kock both scored centuries during their 194-run partnership for the first wicket in Durban on Sunday. Anesh Debiky / AFP
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DURBAN // It was damning that the biggest challenge for South Africa, in the second one-day international against India at Durban on Sunday, was not the opposition, but the race to complete 20 overs in the second innings with rain on the way.

With the bat, ball and on the field, South Africa’s domination of India was complete, and with the series sealed, India would go into the final ODI at Centurion on Wednesday looking to avoid a clean sweep.

In Johannesburg, on a spicy pitch, India went down against quality bowling, their inability to quickly adapt to the conditions coming to the fore. But, even when Dale Steyn had his tail up on Thursday, no India batsman threw his wicket away. They were up for a fight, even if their skills did not back them up. In Durban, chasing 281, it was a different story entirely.

The pitch at Kingsmead was not as quick as the one at the Wanderers and the moisture laden outfield meant that the ball had to be struck incredibly hard or timed perfectly to reach the boundary. Having conceded far too many runs, India once again needed their batsmen to paper over the cracks.

Shikhar Dhawan began the rot, cracking a short ball straight to point where JP Duminy pouched a sharp catch with consummate ease. With Steyn steaming in and keeping the batsmen pinned to the back foot, India saw a way out in attacking Lonwabo Tsotsobe. The idea was not the worst one in the world, but the execution was poor.

Virat Kohli opened the face of his bat to steer to third man – a perfectly safe option back home, but fraught with danger when the ball is doing a bit – and edged straight to Quinton de Kock behind the stumps. Rohit Sharma then unfurled a pull, but picked out the very straight short midwicket fielder placed there for just such a shot. Hashim Amla extended his arms and leapt lithely into the air to accept the offering.

Ajinkya Rahane, playing in place of Yuvraj Singh, who was ruled out with back spasms, was greeted by a flurry of perfectly directed short deliveries, and when he attempted a half-hearted pull off Morne Morkel, he was given out caught behind although he did not appear to make contact with the ball. A sharp sound, coming from Rahane’s gold chain striking the grill of his helmet, may have misled the umpire.

At 34 for four, India were out of the game, but South Africa were forced to take their foot off the pedal as dark clouds forced the lights to be turned on. AB de Villiers brought on JP Duminy in the 13th over, and South Africa rushed through their overs. When the first drops fell on the ground, the 19th over was in progress, and MS Dhoni helpfully edged to the keeper.

Once 20 overs were complete, it was simply a matter of administering the last rites and South Africa were clinical, bowling India out for 146. A second consecutive hiding, this time by 134 runs, meant that India’s tour of South Africa had begun much as their recent harrowing tours of England and Australia where they were blanked out.

If India were poor with the bat, they were not much better with the ball in the first half. They rang in the changes, switching to Plan B, bringing in the extra pace of Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma. It made not the slightest difference to South Africa as de Kock reeled off his third ODI century in a month – he has never failed to convert a half-century in his short career – and Amla delighted his home crowd with a chanceless hundred.

At the end of the day, though, it was not the bowling but the batting – particularly the shot selection – that worried Dhoni. “Compared to the last game, the bowlers did a fantastic job, especially in the middle overs. There wasn’t much for the fast bowlers, but disappointed with the batting,” the India captain said.

Dhoni denied that the short ball had been India’s undoing. “It was more to do with shot selection. This wicket was on the flatter side and pace was down for the fast bowlers. At times, when you play those big shots and it doesn’t pay off, you end up losing quite a few wickets, so that’s something we will have to accept,” he said.

Anand Vasu is the managing editor of Wisden India