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Kohli masterclass leads India to victory

Mushfiqur Rahim’s 113-ball 117 goes in vain as Ajinkya Rahane and Mohammed Shami help their captain with key contributions

Kohli masterclass leads India to victory - Cricket News
Virat Kohli scored 136 off 122 balls to lead India's victory over Bangladesh in the Asia Cup.
The young man with an old head on sturdy shoulders opened the face of his bat a touch. The ball ran down to third man to allow him to complete a single. Off came the helmet, and out came the smile. A quieter-than-normal celebration followed, because Virat Kohli’s job wasn’t yet done. He had just hit a century in another tight run chase for India, but as the captain of the side, Kohli had more responsibility on his shoulders now.

What seemed inevitable when India started its reply was a Kohli star-turn in another successful chase. Eventually, he ended with 136 off 122 as India scaled down Bangladesh’s 279 for 7 with an over to spare, winning by six wickets in the second match of the 2014 Asia Cup, bringing to an end a run of eight consecutive One-Day Internationals without a win.

Wednesday (February 26) had begun promisingly for a packed house at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah as they got to cheer a superb hundred by Mushfiqur Rahim in the first innings. However, the key wicket of the day was always going to be Kohli’s, and through an array of stunning shots, Kohli first resurrected India’s chase after a slow start, and then laid the foundation and finally galloped to victory.

His ally in a 213-run stand for the third wicket in just 32.5 overs was Ajinkya Rahane, whose bat also made lovely contact with ball on the way to 73 off 83. But if ever there was a man who could steal the limelight from an expertly executed upper cut for six to a classic cover drive and a thunderous straight drive, it was Kohli.

India had begun unsteadily, with just one run in the first three overs. Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain were nipping the ball around, and the Bangladeshi fielders showed visible energy on the field, buoyed by their captain’s hundred. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were both tied down for large parts, and both fell after getting starts, to leave India 54 for 2 in the 13th over and the asking rate creeping to over a run-a-ball.

That was the last time Bangladesh was on top in the match though, as Kohli shut them out with flawless strokeplay. His handling of loose deliveries, in particular, was exemplary. When the spinners dropped it short, the ball travelled square on either side of the wicket. When the pacers pitched it too full, the ball was driven with élan. A couple of cover drives, one of the front foot and one of the back, off successive Abdur Razzak deliveries were the pick of the lot, but Kohli gave plenty to choose from.

Rahane’s role was also crucial, though he will rue falling at the doorstep of victory, right after Kohli had also been dismissed. However, Rahane’s composed batting ensured India’s new-look middle order had passed its first test with flying colours, though there will doubtless be tougher battles ahead.

Not that this skirmish was a walk in the park. Rahim’s career-best 117 in 113 balls and an enterprising 77 from Anamul Haque had given Bangladesh a competitive total. Rahim, batting at No. 4, controlled the innings with compact batting punctuated by an array of explosive shots.

Mohammad Shami, by far India’s best bowler on show, picked up 4 for 50, but even he couldn’t break through Rahim until the final over of the innings.

The only time Rahim was discomfited was in dealing with a Varun Aaron beamer in the 39th over of the innings. He had hit two fours and a six off Aaron’s eighth over, and the next ball struck him flush under the shoulder. The batsman promptly went down like a ton of bricks, clutching his side in agony, though he resumed batting after a brief treatment stoppage, and the only result of that delivery was that Aaron was taken off the attack for his second beamer above the waist.

Rahim carried on after that, pushing Bangladesh along to a good recovery. He had joined with Anamul with the score 49 for 2 in 12.1 overs, and both men did well to wrest the initiative back from India’s bowlers with a 133-run stand.

They negotiated the spinners – R Ashwin coming out with a remodelled action that was more open than side-on and brought to mind Sunil Narine – cautiously at first and more confidently later, and took heavy toll of Aaron, who leaked 74 runs in 7.5 overs.

Rahim reached his second ODI hundred in slightly anti-climactic fashion, getting five runs when a scampered push to mid-off resulted in four overthrows – ironic, considering how well his knock had been constructed.

In terms of innings construction, however, there was nothing to compare with Kohli’s masterclass. His 50 was raised in 48 balls, the century took just 95, and the runs continued to flow after that. Kohli fell in the 46th over with India 267 for 3, just 13 away from victory, and Rahane followed soon after to create an artificial flutter. Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu then knocked off the runs required to seal victory.

India had buried one ghost, avenging its defeat at Bangladesh’s hands in the 2012 Asia Cup, but kept one tradition alive: that of the Indian captain playing the starring role in a chase.

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