England struggling to unearth the way to halt ruthless Dhoni

Alastair Cook knows England must find an answer to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s power hitting after the India captain inspired his side to a series-levelling win in the second one-day international at Kochi.

England’s second-innings collapse, which saw them lose nine wickets for 100 runs on their way to a poor 158 all out, may catch the eye but it was Dhoni who changed the tenor of the match.

England had been on top for 40 overs in the field when Dhoni set about a now familiar late-order surge.

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He accelerated in seemingly unstoppable fashion on his way to 72 in 66 balls, with Ravindra Jadeja (61no) following suit, as the sixth-wicket pair put on 96 in just 60 deliveries.

The pair shared four sixes and 15 fours, with 68 runs coming in the last five overs.

That took India to 285-6, a score well beyond what they had anticipated, and sowed the seeds of England’s 127-run defeat. Dhoni had threatened to play a similar knock in the first ODI before being dismissed for 32 and Cook acknowledges he is the key wicket.

“Clearly it’s very tough when you’ve got people like Dhoni in at the end. He’s probably the best player in the world in those situations, in these conditions,” said Cook.

“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.”

Dhoni settled into an effective groove in the closing stages, sending the seam trio of Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach and Chris Woakes to all parts, but Cook declined to take pace off the ball.

Yorkshire’s Joe Root’s occasional spin was an option, but not one Cook 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. Clearly 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 lack of the most experienced one-day bowler on tour, with Tim Bresnan withdrawing just before the start of play.

The Yorkshireman woke yesterday morning in discomfort with bruising above the knee and was replaced by Woakes, whose nine overs cost 60.

Cook admits the late change came as a surprise but does not expect Bresnan to be missing for the next clash in Ranchi on Saturday.

“He woke up with it, so I wasn’t aware of it (until yesterday morning),” said Cook. “Obviously it’s disappointing for him but hopefully it’s only a small niggle and he’ll be back.”

If England are considering how to bowl to Dhoni at the death, they could do worse than head out to the streets of his hometown Ranchi when they touch down today.

For that is where he learned his remarkable ‘helicopter shot’, a party piece of a stroke that Dhoni unleashed several times as he peppered the boundary at the 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.”