Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit couple of towering sixes in his 43 but once again failed as a finisher with Karnataka pipping Jharkhand by five runs in a group D league encounter of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
More than 1000 people turned up at the Eden Gardens, simply because Dhoni was playing. He did bat for a period but as luck would have it, Jharkhand were all-out for 261 in 49.5 overs after Karnataka scored 266 in 49.4 overs. For Karnataka, Indian Premier League specialist Manish Pandey scored 77.
The Jharkhand skipper along with burly Saurabh Tiwary (68) added 81 runs for the fifth wicket after coming to bat at 79 for 4.
Dhoni took eight balls to get off the mark with a single off Stuart Binny as Karnataka persisted with spin-seam attack in off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham and Binny.
He took 23 balls to break free when he charged down the track to IPL-10’s Indian Rs 2-crore pick Gowtham over midwicket for a huge six and began his assault against debutant seamer T Pradeep.
Robin Uthappa struggled behind the stumps with Dhoni missing a stumping and also a catch.
Dhoni changed his bat more than a couple of times as the spectators cheered every shot from the former India captain.
However at the score of 160 with another 100 plus runs to get, Dhoni was bowled as he tried to scoop debutant seamer T Pradeep over fine leg exposing his middle and leg stump.
While Pradeep made it memorable with Dhoni as his maiden wicket at senior level en route to his 2/49, it was off-spinner Gowtham, who was the wrecker-in-chief with his 4/58.
After Dhoni’s departure, Tiwary kept Jharkhand in the hunt and once he was removed by Gowtham, Rahul Shukla (24 from 21 balls; 1×6, 1×4) and Monu Kumar (17 not out from 10 balls; 1×6, 2×4) took the match to the last over with 12 needed to win.
Pacer Prasidh Krishna showed his presence of mind to run out Shukla in the penultimate ball to seal the fate.
Earlier, Dhoni won the toss and sent in Karnataka who were bundled out for 266 in 49.4 overs, a competitive total that was possible due to fighting 50’s from their skipper Pandey and Ravikumar Samarth (71 from 93 balls; 6×4) in a 116-run partnership.
Karnataka lost Robin Uthappa (9) in the second over after the seasoned batsman was castled from an away going delivery by Monu Kumar (2/44), while in-form Mayank Agarwal could not convert his start to be dismissed for 26 by Anand Singh (2/47).
The Dhoni-led Jharkhand face Mohammad Kaif-led Chhattisgarh in Kolkata.