It felt like an eternity. No, not the moments before Dwayne Bravo bowled the last ball of the match. That was deliberate. Slowing time down. Walking to long-on and back again. Waiting and waiting. Playing mind games with no less than Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the undisputed master of the chase.
No, it was what happened after the ball was delivered. Dhoni leaned forward and went with the drive. A thick edge ensued and the ball looped up. It hung in the Florida air. All eyes were trained on Marlon Samuels at short third-man. He had already dropped the easiest catch of the match a few deliveries earlier.
He made no mistake this time. Dwayne Bravo jubilantly raised his arms and rushed to him. KL Rahul turned back, despair on his face. The mask slipped for a moment – MS Dhoni let out a muted sigh of exasperation before going back to his stoic self.
Full of sound and fury
And it was over. After 489 runs, 32 sixes, and two centuries, the difference was just one measly run. Just as Dhoni liked it, it had come down to one versus one. And in a rare moment, Bravo had outfoxed him.
There's this thing about one-run victories. It can seem so anti-climactic. When the West Indies were blasting everything around them to smithereens in the first half, only one result seemed possible. The edges rushed to the boundaries, the wind carried the sixes even farther. When the destruction paused, West Indies had scored 245/6, the third-highest Twenty20 International score ever. No team had ever scored 240 in the second innings.
Even Virat Kohli was dismissed in the first six overs. But the improbable started happening. A young man by the name of KL Rahul started batting. With gorgeous strokeplay and delectable hitting, he kept India’s chase on track. First, it was Rohit Sharma who gave him support and then Dhoni. But on his own, Rahul was sumptuous. He offered one chance, which was dropped by Andre Russell, but there were no other freebies. The gaps were bisected, the aerial route was taken, and India plunged ahead. Rahul got to his 100 in just 46 balls – the third-fastest century in this format – with a six, battled cramps, but carried on. He remained unbeaten. A champion in every sense.
Making it look easy
On the unfamiliar terrain of the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida, India were quietly making things familiar. They fancied themselves as the chase kings, and were being guided by Dhoni who seemed like he had gone back to the golden age of his reign. The straight sixes were being attempted, and they all seemed to be connecting. Like he has done countless times in his career, Dhoni was making the impossible look seemingly easy.
Except in that last over, where cricket proved why it is the greatest leveller.
Just a few months ago, it was Dhoni himself who fashioned an outrageous victory for India over Bangladesh in the World Twenty20. The margin of victory then: one run.
And here it was Dhoni again who faced up to Dwayne Bravo with just two runs required off the last ball to win. The tide though had turned – the two-time World Twenty20 champions just seemed to have things going their way. Bravo’s last delivery could have been anything else and India could have still have won.
But as it was, Samuels took the catch. And India lost. By only one pitiful run. And somewhere in the process, Dhoni – now in the final phase of his cricketing journey – seemed to surrender the power that India had amassed in his time. The power to win, no matter what.
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