Men in Blue beat spirited B’desh by 28 runs, Rohit gets another ton
India sealed their semi-final berth not so much in style as with hard work and sweat as a spirited Bangladesh first downsized their mounting total from an expected 350 plus to 314 and then when all looked lost at 179/6 gave Kohli’s bowlers a run for their money before going out of the tournament head held high.
As India now go into their last match after a long day’s slog, they will be huddling up on all counts: Need to strengthen the Indian arm down the line which has opened itself up to doubts since the England match. Against Bangladesh, the bowling figures were: Bhuvneshwar 9/51/1; Bumrah 10/1/55/4; Shami 9/68/1; Chahal 10/50/1 and Pandya 10/60/3. Also, under scrutiny will be the performance of the Indian middle order and lower middle over batters around inconsistency, Rishabh Pant’s 48 coming in as solace on Tuesday.
Going into the semi-finals, India can’t afford to look ordinary, especially not at the hands of lesser teams like Bangladesh and Afghanistan, not to mention England who had come to the clash after back to back defeats and despite that showed up the Indian arm as well as the bat with lovely batting and bowling.
India singular dream story has been Sharma who took his Man of the Match award yet again after his team mounted their campaign for the next round on his scintillating century, fourth in this World Cup which had him zooming to the top spot of tournament run machines with 544 runs, and an opening partnership of 180 runs in as many balls. This makes Sharma only the second cricketer to make as many centuries in a World Cup, following Sangakkara.
Sharma on surcharge, Virat Kohli walking to his second much under 50 score, Dhoni failing to accelerate in the last 10 overs despite a 100 per cent personal strike rate and Bangladesh bowlers clipping the “massive” total to just a “sizeable” one on a dazzling fifer by their bowler of the day Mustafizur Rahman who unfolded a two-wicket maiden over and ended with two wickets and just two runs in the last over — these were some of the ping pong stories that shaped Act 1 of the India-Bangladesh clash at Edgbaston.
Peppering the story was the young Rishabh Pant with 48 valuable runs as No 4 even as Hardik Pandya fizzled out in just two balls for a duck. After a shocking and perhaps match changing drop catch by Tamim Iqbal at square leg, Sharma, then at 9, lit the fire for most part of his innings packing the ball off to the boundary both aerially and grounded, showing a full blown and colourful performance wheel in the middle.
His stylish, almost lazy, aggression was the story of the first innings for India as he hammered all the Bangladeshi bowlers, nonplussing them with a flurry of sixes and fours in shots that spoke of his acumen, ability and chutzpah with the bat. He kicked off the scoreboard fest with a six in the first over itself, posting Mashrafe Mortaza over the square leg boundary to open his account with his favourite pull shot. The second came in the sixth over, targeting Saifuddin and then onwards not sparing any from the Bangla arms brigade. His century, balanced, fascinating and the fourth in this World Cup came in 92 balls with seven boundaries and five sixes.
As the cheering crowds started chanting for the double, Sharma’s run came to a sudden halt with Soumya Sarkar’s off-breaker catching his bat errantly to be hived off by Liton Das running into extra cover. Sharma’s post century patch showed up for the second time in a row. He had walked for 102 in the last match against England when he was equally sure-footed. Sharma had then talked of the need for him to bat deep into the innings to build up fearlessness for the late middle order to take risks, but that was not to be.
When he returned for 104 runs, KL Rahul was in his 70s looking for his maiden ton in the World Cup. Rahul’s show was no less solid though it took a backseat to a typical Sharma run race which has been habitually winning hearts in this tournament. But soon after Rahul erred on the wrong side of caution to slice Rubel Hussein right into the gloves of the wicket-keeper Mushfiqur Rahim when he was at 77 which he stitched up in 92 balls, hitting six fours and a six. This brought in jerseys 17 and 18 (Pant and Kohli) to hold fort with the young gun newbie coming in at the highly debated No 4 slot.
Pant brought in India’s 200 in the 33rd over with a classy and reassuring six long over the long on boundary, living up to his destructive reputation. But just when a partnership was building up, Kohli got out uncharacteristically at 26 in 27 balls with 3 fours bringing down the third wicket at 237 in 38 overs. This was the second time Kohli didn’t get to his 50 in the tournament. Despite a full-throated shot it went to Soumya Sarkar off Mustafizur at mid-wicket. Rahman got the other prized scalp of Hardik Pandya in the next ball.
And then in walked Dhoni to yet another huge cheer from the expectant crowd. He scored 35 off 33 balls with four boundaries and 14 dot balls. In the last 10 overs under the stewardship of Dhoni, India scored 63 runs, going from 251 to 314.
He played out the last over without trying but failing to accelerate. First ball dot because Dhoni was not interested in a single. Second dot ball stopped at mid-on. Third ball, he hits high into oblivion only to be caught by Shakib-Al-Hassan, giving Mustafizur his fourth wicket in this match and 14th overall. Three balls of the crucial last over went without runs as he walked with 35 runs in 33 balls, failing to finish with a flourish. Bhuvneshwar was run out and the last over went for just two runs. Not even 100 runs were added in the last 12 overs by India even as Mustafizur got his fifth scalp of the match in his last ball, clean bowling Mohammed Shami all cross bat and desperate to get something on the board.
Dhoni will come under scrutiny yet again, especially when Bangladesh almost crossed the rubicon later in the innings with their middle order batsmen Saifuddin and Sabbir picking on the famed Indian arm to stitch up a 66-run partnership before Bumrah took away the bails of Sabbir when he was 36 in 36 balls with five fours.
This partnership in 61 balls was Bangladesh’s highest seventh-wicket partnership against India, dispersing some of the talk of the slowed down pitch. Saifuddin went on to score a 51 not out in 38 balls questioning the brilliance of the Indian arm, picking particularly on Shami. Sabbir hit him for 17 runs in one over with four boundaries. Bumrah came to India’s rescue following up with Rubel’s wicket and then quelling the Bangladesh rebellion at 286 by scalping Mustafizur in the very next ball to give India a 28-run victory over an extremely competitive Bangladesh.
Wednesday, 03 July 2019 | PNS | Edgbaston