By R Kaushik in Mirpur
Ashwin, Mishra tie down Bangladesh before Kohli and Rohit steer chase with composed half-centuries
R Ashwin gatecrashed Amit Mishra’s party at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, but the little legspinner wasn’t to be denied his time under the lights either.
With another emphatic display of the skills required to be successful in 20-over cricket, India thus became the first team to make it to the semifinals of the ICC World Twenty20 2014.
India’s first entry into the knockout stage of the World T20 since its title triumph in 2007 came courtesy a third consecutive successful chase, this time by the margin of eight wickets against Bangladesh, a result which plunged the host nation into sorrow.
After Mahendra Singh Dhoni won his 10th successive international toss – all of them overseas – and opted to field first once again, Ashwin (2 for 15) embraced the lead role with another wonderful display of fascinating offspin bowling. All through the tournament, he has bowled superbly without commensurate returns; on Friday (March 28) night, he finally found some reward, scuttling Bangladesh’s aggressive designs with two wickets in as many deliveries in the fourth over of the innings.
Bangladesh did reasonably well to rally from 21 for 3 – Shakib Al Hasan again fell cheaply – to post 138 for 7, the highest total this tournament against India, who is the only team in the Super 10 not to concede 140 or more runs thus far. Mishra, employed at various stages of the innings between the 10th and the 20th overs, was again among the wickets, finishing with 3 for 26 to boost his tally for the competition to seven.
India’s batting has hardly been tested in this tournament – its previous targets have been 131 and 130, both scaled down with seven wickets in hand – and it wasn’t forced to work hard this time around either, not with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli realising a second century stand for the second wicket in as many matches. On Sunday, they had put on 106 against West Indies. This time, their association worth exactly 100, off 76 deliveries, was measured and primarily risk-free, comprehensively ensuring that there were no flutters whatsoever in the dugout after another failure for Shikhar Dhawan and the building block on which India clambered to 141 for 2.
Dhawan, all inside edges during his six-ball stay, was also bowled off the inside edge by Al-Amin Hossain, but Rohit and Kohli batted as if on the most placid, batsman-friendly of pitches. There was turn and the ball wasn’t exactly rushing on, but with both of them willing to play the ball late, there were few alarms. Rohit was the more adventurous early on, happy to take the aerial route when he shimmied down the track, while Kohli only opened out once he had assured himself that all was well with his batting world.
There was one moment of anxiety when Rohit tonked Zaiur Rahman, but Sohag Gazi, running back from midwicket, and Anamul Haque, running in from deep backward square-leg, combined to make a hash of it. The ball spilled out of Gazi’s hands to make this the 66th dropped chance in the 24th match of the competition, a remarkable statistic given that the best players in the world are in action.
Rohit first, off 39 deliveries, and then Kohli, off 41, both touched 50 and looked on course to applying the finishing touches, against the run of play, Rohit was smartly caught at point by Nasir Hossain, leaping overhead, off a full toss.
Dhoni, who hasn’t had a knock in a while now, walked out at No. 4 ahead of Yuvraj Singh and helped himself to a few lusty hits, the end coming with nine deliveries to spare as Dhoni lashed Ziaur well back over his head and just short of the sight screen.
Under some strife following below-par performances in its two previous fixtures, Bangladesh tried hard to make the early running. Tamim Iqbal flailed away while Anamul, classy and composed, was a lot more in control, playing beautifully on both sides of the wicket during an innings-high 44 that came at just over a run a ball.
It wasn’t long after the start that India broke through. Ashwin produced a peach that turned and got big on Tamim, the left-hand batsman following it for Suresh Raina to take a smart catch at slip. Off the next delivery, Shamsur Rahman – one of two additions to the Bangladesh XI – unerringly picked out Rohit at deep midwicket, and when Shakib played Bhuvneshwar Kumar onto his stumps five deliveries later, Bangladesh was in trouble with an expectant crowd gone completely quiet.
Shakib’s dismissal led to the first of two fightbacks that kept Bangladesh in the hunt. Anamul was joined by Mushfiqur Rahim, the captain who has been at the receiving end of a great deal of criticism in the last couple of months. Determined to make a match of it, the pair batted with commonsense though they did have their slices of luck as intended beefy drives over the infield on the offside fled off the outside edge to third man. The crowd didn’t mind; they still counted as runs on the board, after all.
India went slightly off the boil during this association of 46 in 41, Mohammed Shami in particular taking some tap, but it was Shami who produced the breakthrough, forcing Rahim to pull to Kohli at midwicket. India had the opening, and tried hard to prise the door open wider, but Bangladesh held reasonably firm even if the batsmen were fairly bamboozled by Mishra.
Mahmudullah played some gorgeous shots late in the innings, most of them through the on-side, but India were never in any great danger, what with Dhoni having Mishra in reserve. To go after the legspinner at the death is a task beyond even most accomplished top-order batsmen; Bangladesh’s lower order understandably struggled. Mishra had earlier accounted for Anamul with a googly that the batsmen completely misread. In the final over, he again left his imprint, foxing the largely strokeless Nasir with a ripping legspinner and jettisoning Ziaur first ball, caught in the deep.
Mahmudullah’s cameo had given Bangladesh something to work with, but with Rohit bedding down to make a good thing count and Kohli continuing to showcase his liking for the Sher-e-Bangla, the Indian chase was the proverbial lark in the park.