For large parts of Bangladesh’s batting effort against India in the second semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, the underdog looked like the big stage held no fear for it at all, and seemed to be cruising towards a 300-plus total. But late strikes by the defending champs curtailed the Tigers’ momentum and some plucky hitting toward the end took the team to a competitive 264 for 7.
India should back itself to chase that total down on an Edgbaston pitch that has not played any tricks, in front of a Birmingham crowd split almost equally between supporters of both teams. India’s bowling effort was led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2 for 53 in 10 overs), Jasprit Bumrah (2 for 40 in 10 overs) and an unlikely hero in Kedar Jadhav, who had 2 for 22 in six overs.
Bangladesh had begun superbly through Tamim Iqbal’s 70 and Mushfiqur Rahim’s 61, but lost its way in the middle to end up well short of where it appeared to be heading at the halfway stage. It did do enough, though, to give its bowlers a reasonable chance.
Bhuvneshwar had given India the perfect start by snaring Soumya Sarkar in the first over, and then setting up Sabbir Rahman in the seventh to leave Bangladesh 31 for 2. Sabbir had begun very well, with a flurry of fours off both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah. But both bowlers cut down on the loose stuff and Bhuvneshwar mixed up his lengths nicely, before suckering Sabbir into an airy drive at a slower one that went straight to Ravindra Jadeja at point. Sabbir had thrown it away after looking good, but the experienced pair of Tamim and Rahim wasn’t about to do the same.
They got together with the run-rate having plateaued, thanks to two consecutive maidens, took some time to take stock and pounced when the opportunity came. Hardik Pandya was handed the ball for the 13th over, and not only did he overstep twice, one of the no-balls cost him the wicket of Tamim, who had played on and could have been out for 17. The over fetched 14 runs and was the cue for both batsmen to start stroking the ball more freely.
Both found the fence regularly too, with a boundary coming almost every over. The match had begun with a 10-minute delay thanks to a brief drizzle, but the clouds had long since parted, and Bangladesh seemed on course for a massive total when the two were batting. That was when Virat Kohli turned to Jadhav’s part-time off-spin. The effect was immediate, and the rewards didn’t take too long in coming either.
Denied pace off the ball, both Tamim and Rahim couldn’t rattle along. Had they perhaps weathered the lower run-scoring pace, they would have doubtless found avenues to accelerate again later. But betraying an impatience that Bangladesh has still not mastered, Tamim tried to go for a big slow-sweep, only to miss the ball altogether and see it hit the stumps.
Tamim was out for an 82-ball 70, and Jadhav’s golden arm had broken a dangerous stand of 123 that took just 127 balls. That brought on the squeeze by India’s bowlers, with Jadhav and Jadeja operating in tandem. Once again, Bangladesh didn’t show the patience to ride out the rough periods, looking to hit its way out of a quiet spot but paying the price.
Shakib Al Hasan was caught behind, MS Dhoni making another fast-reaction take look effortless, and in the next over, Jadhav had his second wicket when Rahim skipped down to slog-sweep straight to Kohli, who had taken a few steps to his left anticipating the ball when he saw Rahim shape up.
Suddenly, Bangladesh had gone from 159 for 2 in the 28th over to 184 for 5 in the 36th, and its ambitions of a big total had to be scaled down. Mahmudullah was still at the crease, and he benefitted from a dropped catch by R Ashwin when on 9, but could make only 21.
Mashrafe Mortaza swung his bat around, and had no fewer than three boundaries coming off edges, but he rode his luck to end with 30 not out off 25, ensuring that there wasn’t a total collapse at the end and taking the team past 250. It did spoil the figures of Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar, who bowled with great control to nail their yorkers and bouncers, but saw boundaries flying off outside edges and top edges behind the keeper.
Whether those precious extra runs will make a difference will determine whether the final will be an emotionally charged one between Pakistan and Bangladesh, or an even more emotionally charged one between Pakistan and India.