MS Dhoni has very fond memories in Chennai. It was in Chennai that the gifted wicket-keeper batsman made his Test debut way back in 2005. It was the very same Chennai that Dhoni made his own, thanks to the long and successful association with the IPL franchise, Chennai Super Kings. Dhoni will always remain a super king in the Chennai kingdom.
So, when India got ready to face Australia in Chennai, all eyes were on MS Dhoni as the Indian captain was expected to light up the stadium. But little did the Chennai crowd imagine that he would go on to break a number of records through his terrific knock in that test.
February 22, 2013, - Australian captain Michael Clarke won the toss and decided that they will bat first. They got to a competitive 380, thanks to a magnificent captain's knock of 130 from Clarke coupled with the fifties from Warner and Henriques. In reply, India got to the worst possible start, losing both Vijay and Sehwag as the scorecard read 12/2.
Pujara scored a fine 44 and Tendulkar chipped in with a delicious 81 but missed out on a hundred that was there for the taking. India were 196/4 when their skipper MS Dhoni joined Virat Kohli in the crease.
The Dhoni Dhamaka:
Dhoni started off slowly during the initial phase of his knock, as Kohli was looking in fine touch at the other end. Dhoni's first boundary came through a lofted shot over mid-on off Lyon. Very shortly, he swept through deep mid-wicket as Lyon delivered a full delivery outside off. The Dhoni that the Chennai crowd craved for had seemed to arrive. The Dhoni that the Australians were dreading had seemed to arrive.
Lyon took a further beating as Dhoni drove a full-toss through extra cover with insane ease and cut one off the back foot between cover and point for two boundaries in the same over. The second new ball was taken, albeit a little late but Dhoni was in the 'zone' that day. He was in no mood to go on the defensive as he immediately lofted Pattinson for four over backward point.
India made the most of the new ball as both Kohli and Dhoni were really aggressive in their approach. They showed positive intent and were always looking to put the pressure back on the visitors. It was quite evident that the pressure was telling on the Aussies as Dhoni took three boundaries of a Starc over. The first of the three was punched off the backfoot with all the elegance in the world, the second one was square driven on the offside to bring up the Indian skipper's 29th Test fifty, a knock that came off just 59 balls when India was still in need of partnerships. It was a game-changing innings, and it could not have come at a better time for India. Another offside drive, another boundary and India were gaining control with the two of them going stronger. It also brought up the century partnership between Virat and Dhoni, a partnership that set the tone for India to gain a strong momentum.
Kohli was classy in his strokes too. When he flicked Pattinson for a boundary in the 87th over of the innings, he had got to his fourth test hundred and second on the trot, but he soon fell without overhauling his then highest score of 116, with India still trailing by 56.
Dhoni was fearless in his approach as he needed no sighters to launch a full delivery off Henriques over long-off, with all the power in the world. It was probably the shot of the day for many. He played a similar shot through the other side of the ground as the ball was smacked for a boundary over mid-on.
It was followed by an effortless punch past point as the fielder in the deep had no chance. Siddle was reintroduced, and Dhoni did not spare him either. He is not known for his textbook cover-drive, but MS Dhoni did play one and beat mid-off comfortably.
Lyon is always a threat on turning wickets but Dhoni caressed the full-toss through covers to enter the 80s. The next 10-12 overs leading to Tea saw Dhoni playing out time, as he lost Jadeja at the other end. India still trailed by 15 when Jadeja fell, but it was not bothering India, as they still had the mighty MS Dhoni dishing out a special feast for the Chennai crowd that day.
Ashwin fell in the very first over after tea and Dhoni realized that he was fast running out of partners. Dhoni and tail-enders come as mutual benefits and Australia knew the game had just begun. The Dhoni game had just begun. The signs were ominous for the visitors.
The very next over of Siddle brought up the iconic ton from the Indian skipper, as he swung towards the backward square leg region. He had lofted and driven himself to a 119 ball 100 and the celebrations were rather quiet. The raise of the bat followed as the crowd went crazy. Their favorite son had put on a show here. It was an innings that was full of positives, it was an innings that was mixed with caution and aggression. It was an innings that had everything from MS Dhoni.
He had completed 4000 test runs as a wicket-keeper in Tests and just after his sixth test ton, he started cutting loose, as though he did not until then. When Lyon floated one up, Dhoni was quick to dance down the pitch and drill it straight back over the bowler for a boundary.
By then, Dhoni had started the six hunt as he lofted the tossed up delivery of Lyon way back into the deep mid stands as he brought up the 400 for India. India had a lead, and Dhoni had led from the front in typical MS style.
Soon, Harbhajan was castled by Henriques and the famous Dhoni-Bhuvi stand took over from there on.
India had a lead of 26 when Bhuvi joined MS in the crease. Shortly, MS was dropped by Clarke of his own bowling, albeit a tough chance when he drilled one down the track. If only had it stuck in his hands, Australia could have had a look-in in the contest. But it was not to be. The MS show was destined to continue. The Chennai crowd was in for more magic.
The first pull of the day from MS' willow saw the ball race away to the fence in a canter. Lyon was greeted with a ferocious swing of the bat over the long-on fence, as he got his third six of the innings. The dancing-down-the-pitch and slogging continued as Dhoni collected a boundary and a brace towards long-off and retained the strike, something that he does with the tail-enders, even while he sleeps.
He even had a massage in his back, but that did not deter him from attacking Pattinson right away, chancing his arm for a fine boundary. He had moved to 149, his highest ever test score at the point. The last ball of the over saw the Indian captain getting to his 150, courtesy a proper cover drive. The crowd rose in unison as he became only the third Indian wicket-keeper to go past 150 in tests, a knock that came off just 185 balls.
Dhoni once again powerfully pulled a short ball and the ball raced to the fence in a jiffy. The records continued to be shattered, as he had got to the highest score by an Indian captain against Australia in tests.
It was that kind of a day for MS Dhoni, as even mis-hits cleared the fence. It was evident when he just managed to clear the ropes for yet another maximum, beating Henriques' desperate effort. Lyon once again bore the brunt. He was desperate. He was trying different techniques, but MS had an answer to everything that day.
Two sixes off Lyon in a single over were followed by a strike retaining single. Bhuvi was rock solid at the other end, whenever he got a chance to bat. Clarke was running short of ideas as Dhoni took quick singles and doubles, something that has been the hallmark of his entire career.
Warner was introduced into the attack, and Dhoni was quick to rock back and pull the ball into the fence, bisecting deep mid and long-on to a nicety. He had raced to the highest test score by an Indian wicket-keeper in tests, past Budhi Kunderan. He had entered the magical 190s and India had a lead of over 100 by then.
Dhoni took his time and was quite sensible in his 190s, as he milked the singles and twos that were on offer. On 199, MS dabbed the ball to point for a quick single off Lyon, whom he had targeted for the most part of his innings. The Indian skipper had got to his landmark. He had got to a territory where the other Indian keepers had not set foot before. He was part of the sweet 200s club. The crowd went bonkers as their lovable son had served a knock for the ages. He had feasted on the Aussie bowling with supreme authority. The fans wanted an MS special, and he had gifted them more than they wanted. Again it was the customary raise of the bat that followed and it was business as usual for the cool and calm MS Dhoni.
A knock that came off just 231 balls, continued to grow stronger with each passing ball as MS stood tall and muscled the ball over mid-on. He had successfully managed to play out the day, enabling India for a 130+ lead. It was a day that belonged entirely to MS Dhoni, as his knock had everything that one could ask for. Be it, his mighty swings through the off-side, be it his cuts through point, be it his cover drives that beat the fielders with pin-point precision, be it his odd sweeps through square regions on the leg side, be it his dancing down the pitch and lofting Lyon at will, be it his powerful slogs over mid-on, this knock of MS Dhoni was a complete package for the crowd. After all, they longed for this. They craved for this. And MS granted their wishes with his willow. A stupendous knock that came when India was in some sort of trouble. A knock that successfully bailed India out of trouble, a knock that was full of entertainment and a knock, most importantly, put India in a position of strength, from a difficult situation.
Come Day 4, Dhoni's approach towards Lyon did not change one bit. He does not play reverse sweeps that often, but this knock filled that vacuum as well, as he powerfully reverse-swept Lyon past short-third for the first boundary of the day. The crowd knew that the show had started again. Each boundary was treated with a giant uproar as MS put the ball into the long-on stands with utter disdain thereby equaling the great Sachin Tendulkar for the highest score by an Indian skipper in tests. It needed something magical to break the Master's record, and MS Dhoni provided one that day.
He went after Pattinson once more, lofting the length ball over mid-off, in what turned out to be the last boundary of his epic innings. Clarke sported a worried look. He knew he had let go of a great opportunity to stranglehold the Indians. He knew his opposite number had taken the game away from them. It was a special day in Indian cricket as MS Dhoni had scored the highest individual score by an Indian wicket-keeper in tests. Soon after, he departed for a fine 224 off just 265 deliveries with 24 hits to the fence and six of them over it. The entire crowd stood up and applauded a magical innings from their lovable son, as Dhoni walked back to the change room, having played a magnificent innings to put India right on top.
He had also put on a humongous 140 runs stand with Bhuvi, helping India to a lead of close to 200. India managed to bowl out Australia for 241 in the second essay and chased down the target of 50 with relative ease.
But it was a match to remember for MS Dhoni. It was a moment to relive for every Indian fan. It was an innings to relive and rejoice for the Chennai crowd, as their most favorite son had breezed to his first and only double ton in his test career. This stupendous knock of MS Dhoni will certainly be etched in the memory of every Indian cricket fan. The crowd that witnessed this test from close quarters were not disappointed, thanks to a magical 224 by the Indian skipper MS Dhoni.
MS Dhoni was rightly adjudged the Player of the Match for his tremendous knock that will be remembered and relived for the years to come!
When the future Indian keepers do manage to get to a double-hundred in tests, Indian fans will very fondly turn back to this knock (as this was the first instance), relive it and get pleasure out of it. A truly magical MS Dhoni masterclass, only fair that it came in his adopted home, Chennai!
Interesting Fact: MS Dhoni got to his only double hundred in Tests on 24th February 2013, the exact date in which Sachin Tendulkar also got his only double hundred in ODIs three years back.