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Rejuvenated Dhoni eyes series-clinching win on home ground

October 25, 2016 12:37 IST

This could be Ranchi's favourite son's last appearance on his home turf -- the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium Complex in Ranchi.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni hits a six during the third One-Day International against New Zealand in Mohali. Photograph: BCCI

Rediscovering himself in the twilight of his career, a rejuvenated Mahendra Singh Dhoni would look to continue his regained form and guide India to a series-clinching win when the hosts take on New Zealand in the fourth One-Day International, in Ranchi, on Wednesday.

A batsman, wicketkeeper, and a cool-headed skipper, all rolled into one, Dhoni promoted himself to No. 4 in the second ODI in Mohali and set up the seven-wicket win in the company of Virat Kohli, who hit an unbeaten century, to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.

Dhoni's 91-ball 80 in Mohali also took him to 9,000 runs in ODIs he became the first to reach the landmark with an average of 50 or more.

This could be Ranchi's favourite son's last appearance on his home turf -- the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium Complex in Ranchi which has hosted three ODIs and one T20I, with India winning all of them except for a rain-marred one-dayer.

Dhoni's deputy, Kohli, will also look forward to return to the venue where he has scores of 77 not out and 139 not out in his two unconquered ODI innings.

IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, right, and Virat Kohli run between the wickets. Photograph: BCCI

Regarded among the best batsmen of modern era, Kohli once again showed how dangerous he can be after being dropped early in his innings in Mohali. He came on his own after the reprieve on six and scripted a flawless 154 not out off 134 balls to take India past New Zealand's 285 in the third ODI.

It was Kohli's 26th century -- 22 in winning cause, same as Sachin Tendulkar -- and 14 in successful chases.

And stopping the 27-year-old Delhi batsman would be New Zealand's top priority, on Wednesday.

In their decisive 151-run third wicket partnership, Dhoni showed a renewed optimism and hunger while Kohli was at his clinical best.

To say that Dhoni has past his prime would be too early but the 35-year-old has himself acknowledged his diminishing prowess in Mohali, something that prompted him to elevate himself to No. 4 in the batting line-up.

"To some extent I am losing my ability to freely rotate in the middle. If it keeps on happening for a long time, tendency is you don't fluently rotate strike and that was what was happening with my batting," he had said.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

IMAGE: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Photograph: BCCI

Back to where it all began for Dhoni, it will be an emotional match for the Indian skipper, who has won every major global trophy and he would look to make the outing in front of his home fans a memorable one.

Dhoni's return to form would be a dangerous signal for the Kiwis, who are desperate to prove a point after their 0-3 whitewash in the Test series.

Despite opting to rest their three premier bowlers in the Tests -- Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami and Ravindra Jadeja keeping in view the gruelling home season ahead -- India have done reasonably well in the bowling department.

The biggest surprise has been part-time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav, who has taken six wickets at less than eight runs an over, and is joint second in the wicket-takers' list behind leg-spinner Amit Mishra.

Having got a lucky break following Suresh Raina's fitness issues, the 31-year-old Jadhav is grabbing the opportunity with both hands.

An explosive batsman, Jadhav, who scored a 37-ball 41 in New Delhi, can give Dhoni a good option ahead of the next year's Champions Trophy by becoming the utility player in the lower order that the skipper is looking for.

Then there is Hardik Pandya, who has impressed with both bat and bowl in his debut ODI series.

Making his debut in Dharamshala, Pandya bowled with pace and accuracy en route a match-winning 3-31 while in New Delhi he nearly pulled off an tough chase before being dismissed for 36 from 32 balls.

But going into Wednesday's game, India's biggest concern would be the opening duo of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who are yet to give the team an explosive start. In the last three ODIs their partnership has yielded 49, 21 and 13 runs respectively.

The Indian team management would be looking towards the Mumbai pairing of Rohit and Rahane to forge a partnership upfront to release extra pressure on the middle-order.

Rahane himself would be eager to make a big score and cement his place in the opening slot in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul.

Jimmy Neesham

IMAGE: Jimmy Neesham bats during the third ODI. Photograph: BCCI

On the other hand, it is a must-win match for New Zealand to keep their hopes alive in the series and for that to happen their batsmen need to fire in unison.

Barring Tom Latham and captain Kane Williamson, no other Kiwi batsmen has been among the runs.

Senior pros Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor are enduring a forgettable series with the bat and it's high time the duo fires for New Zealand to end the tour on a positive note.

The contribution from the lower-order has been a positive aspect for New Zealand in the series so far.

In the last ODI in Mohali, the Black Caps revived their innings with a lower-order surge between James Neesham (57) and Matt Henry (39 not out) in an 84-run record ninth wicket stand to take their total to 285.

In the remaining two games, Williamson would be hoping that his top-order lays the foundation for the lower-order to fire on flat Indian tracks, loaded with runs.

Teams:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt and WK), Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Axar Patel, Hardik Pandya, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mandeep Singh.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (Capt), Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, Correy Anderson, Luke Ronchi (WK), James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi, Anton Devcich,BJ Watling, Doug Bracewell.

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