Bengaluru, Dec 15: There was no major contribution from MS Dhoni with the bat again, but his leadership inspired Jharkhand to a comfortable 47-run victory over hosts Karnataka in the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament here today.
Dhoni was bowled by part-time off-spinner Karun Nair for just 1 run after stand-in skipper Manish Pandey won the toss and opted to field first at Alur ground 2 (Golden Oval) on Tuesday (December 15).
The 34-year-old Dhoni, who was earlier today picked by Pune in IPL player draft, has had a quiet tournament so far with scores of 9, 44, 18 and 1. Despite this, Jharkhand have managed to string together 4 victories in 5 games and remain top of the table (16 points) in Group B.
The latest success has put Jhakhand closer to a spot in the quarter-finals. Karnataka find themselves in a tough spot after 2 losses in 4 matches. Each team plays 6 matches in league phase before top-2 in the group qualify for quarter-finals.
Jharkhand had a good opening stand of 74 runs (17.1 overs) between Ishank Jaggi (50, 95 balls, 4x4) and Anand Singh (37, 54 balls, 4x4). But left-arm spinner J Suchith (4/35) and Nair (2/45) struck regularly to keep Jharkhand to 216/8 in 50 overs.
Dhoni, who was promoted to number 3 today, did not last long. After taking 7 balls to get off the mark, he departed the next ball he faced, bowled by Karun, losing the off-stump.
Defending a low score, Jharkhand were lifted by Dhoni, the 'captain'. Though Varun Aaron was the team's skipper, for most parts of the match, it was Dhoni who was setting the fields. And why not, he is one of the greatest leaders the game has ever seen and Aaron had all the reasons to fall back on him for all the inputs.
Between the overs, Dhoni was seen talking to Aaron, though not for the first time in the tournament. Not only did Dhoni, the T20 and 50-over World Cup winning captain, give constant advice to Aaron, he also effected a stumping and took a catch.
In between the serious contest on the field, there was time for some fun as Dhoni tried to pull Karnataka's top-scorer KL Rahul (42, 84 balls, 5x4) out of the crease and stump him.
Jharkhand's victory was the result of Dhoni's smart field placements and the spinners bowling exceptionally well. The left-arm spin combination of Shahbaz Nadeem (3/17) and Sonu Singh (3/20) turned the game for the visitors.
The margin of defeat could have been more for the hosts if not for the last-wicket pair of S Aravind and Suchith who entertained over 400 fans with 39-run association. Stuart Binny, who injured his ankle while fielding, walked out to bat at No. 10. Batting in pain, he hit 2 boundaries before getting out trying for a big hit.
Earlier, Karnataka were jolted by the absence of their main bowlers - captain R Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun. Both were sidelined due to injuries.
Scores in brief
Jharkhand 216/8 in 50 overs (Ishank Jaggi 50, Kumar Deobrat 47 not out, Anand Singh 37, J Suchith 4/35, Karun Nair 2/35) beat Karnataka 169 all out in 45 overs (KL Rahul 42, Suchith 34, Karun 24, S Aravind 22, Mayank Agarwal 20, Shahbaz Nadeem 3/15, Sonu Singh 3/20, Rahul Shukla 2/38)
Points: Jharkhand 4; Karnataka 0