Cook pinpoints Dhoni threat
Alastair Cook knows England must find an answer to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s power hitting after India’s captain inspired his side to a series-levelling win in the second one-day international at Kochi.
Buoyed by their series-opening victory at Rajkot, England initially impressed with the ball today, only for Dhoni to then set about a now familiar late-innings surge.
He accelerated in devastating fashion on his way to 72 from 66 balls and Ravindra Jadeja followed suit with an unbeaten 37-ball 61 as India posted 285 for six, a total that proved well beyond the reach of England, dismissed for 158 in reply.
Dhoni had threatened to play a similar knock in the first ODI before being dismissed for 32 and Cook acknowledged the importance of claiming his opposite number’s scalp early on.
“Clearly it’s very tough when you’ve got people like Dhoni in at the end,” said England’s skipper. “He’s probably the best player in the world in those situations, in these conditions.
“I think they got probably 30 or 40 too many towards the end - 108 off the last 10 overs - so that hurts. (Bowling to Dhoni) is very hard and you get exposed if you don’t quite get your skills right.
“He does it time and time again. He’s incredibly hard to bowl at and it’s very very hard to stop him on these flat wickets.
“Hopefully one day we can produce a bit of magic to get him out, which puts them under pressure. He’s obviously a key player for them and he’s delivering at the moment.
“The important thing to remember is it’s 1-1 in the series now, so there’s all to play for.”
Dhoni settled into an effective groove in the closing stages, yet Cook declined to take pace off the ball.
Joe Root’s occasional spin was an option, but not one the captain could commit to.
“You can always have hindsight,” he said. “But if there’s one batter you probably don’t want to bowl spin at, it’s Dhoni towards the end.
“We’ve seen him a number of times and spin at the end is very hard to bowl to him. When you get hit for 68 off the last five overs you think maybe now you’d do something differently, but at the time that was a very big gamble.”
England may bemoan the absence of their most experienced one-day bowler on tour, with Tim Bresnan withdrawing just before the start of play.
The Yorkshireman woke this morning in discomfort with bruising above the knee and was replaced by Chris Woakes.
Cook admits the late change came as a surprise but does not expect Bresnan to be missing for the next clash in Ranchi.
“He woke up with it, so I wasn’t aware of it until this morning,” said Cook. “Obviously it’s disappointing for him but hopefully it’s only a small niggle and he’ll be back.”
The series now moves on to Dhoni's hometown for game three of five on Saturday.
That is where the wicketkeeper-batsman learned his remarkable ‘helicopter shot’, a party piece of a stroke that Dhoni unleashed several times as he peppered the boundary at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
“It really helps me. It is something I used to play when I played a lot of tennis ball cricket (as a child),” said Dhoni.
“That’s something everybody plays in India and some days everybody thinks they are Sachin Tendulkar because they have scored runs in the street.
“But it fetches me quite lot of runs. It is not an easy shot to play with that heavy bat but it has got me runs. You can go underneath the ball and look to get a fair bit of elevation and look to go over the infield.
“It has helped me have a good command in the last 10 overs, with the yorkers and even the short-pitched deliveries.”