How Dwayne Bravo outwitted MS Dhoni and KL Rahul in the last over of the India-West Indies T20I
India’s first T20 match in the USA against the West Indies produced a clash worthy of the stage. India lost by 1 run in what turned out to be the highest scoring T20I match ever, with Dwayne Bravo successfully defending 8 runs in the final over. KL Rahul (110 off 51) and MS Dhoni (43 off 25) had taken the side within touching distance of the target in the unbelievably high scoring match, but were vanquished at the last step by the clever cricketing brain of DJ Bravo.
There have been some analysis after the match pointed towards how the finish proves that the match was fixed, or to how Dhoni is not the finisher he was any more. It is a shame how a sensational cricket match such as this T20I can produce such simplistic conclusions and how the titanic encounter between MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo is overlooked.
There had been 483 runs scored in the first 39 overs of the match, and only 8 were required off the last. We had been treated to some cavalier innings from Johnson Charles, Evin Lewis and Rohit Sharma, and a particularly classy one from KL Rahul, but it was the final showdown between Bravo and Dhoni in the 40th over that was the fitting final act of the day – a personal clash that is surely the perfect advertisement for the game on foreign shores.
How Bravo slowed time down and disturbed Dhoni’s momentum
A total of 67 boundaries had been hit in the match, but Bravo did not concede any in the 40th over, bowling to two well-set batsmen. Even when the equation came down to 4 required off 2, Indians had faith in their captain’s six hitting capabilities, victory still seemed assured. Dhoni hit the 5th ball down to long on and scampered for two.
Previously, Rahul had turned down Dhoni’s calls for a second run more than once, something that would come back to haunt him and the team.
With two required off the final ball, Bravo resorted to the best tactics when it comes to such tight finishes. He slowed time down. As Dhoni fidgeted on the crease, his natural momentum being on the verge of getting disturbed, Bravo called his fielders over, shouting out instructions. A minute passed, then another. Still, Bravo was talking to Pollard, and the two of them seemed to have a whispered conversation as Carlos Brathwaite looked on with a sense of responsibility.
The greatest ODI teams have done this forever. Sangakkara, Muralitharan, Jayasuriya and Jayawardene would all mill around Chaminda Vaas as he would steam in to bowl final overs of close matches in the Sri Lankan team of the early 2000s. One interruption per delivery, the batsman’s momentum played with. Considerations of over rate thrown out of the equation, every single ball was planned beforehand in this meeting.
A last second adjustment
As Bravo said in the post-match ceremony, he had preempted that Dhoni would target the mid wicket region, targeting even a single which would take the match to a Super Over. Just as the ball was about to leave his hand, Dhoni’s front foot started to move forward, the slog on the leg side was coming.
But there was a last second adjustment. Bravo had planned not to bowl his slower ball, but then he saw this front foot movement. He bowled a slower ball slightly to the off stump. Dhoni’s foot wobbled, not being able to keep up with this last second change. An edge of his bat ballooned up towards Marlon Samuels. Ha gave a grimacing smile to KL Rahul on the non-striker’s end, as the two of them spent a moment on the pitch discussing the ball and the shot. India had lost by 1 run.
This is of course not the first time that ‘master finisher’ Dhoni has failed to finish a game for India, but the regularity with which he pulls off these finishes makes the times he does not stand out. Earlier this year in Harare, Dhoni failed to hit a boundary off the last ball in a T20I against Zimbabwe. Against England at Birmingham in 2014 in a T20I, in Yuvraj Singh’s comeback match in 2012 against New Zealand, against Kagiso Rabada in 2015, sometimes the bowler has got the better of Dhoni in the final over.
These instances must not be taken as proof of his waning skills or of match fixing though, then the law of the game which dictates that there must be a winner and a loser is insulted, and so is the bowler who has come up with extraordinary skills to pull off a win against the best in the job.