The excellent Rohit Sharma ensured there was no Pune-like slip in Mirpur. This was a green wicket too and while the rest of the top order struggled, Sharma overcame doubts which arrive when a batsman has a few hits and misses to play one of the finer innings, given the conditions. There was a dropped chance but that will take nothing away from his wonderful shot-making which was on display on Wednesday.
The Mumbai batsman missed out on his second T20 international hundred, but his 83 off 55 balls was gold standard, making the selection for the Man of the Match award a formality. Then, Ashish Nehra rolled back the years to help his team win the Asia Cup opener by 45 runs. Seaming pitch backfired on the hosts. As the Indian team celebrated the win, a large number of home fans has already exited the stadium. When Bangladesh won the toss and chose to field, there was hope that the home team, which fielded four fast bowlers, would dominate this game.
Not many moons ago, Sri Lanka had exposed India’s batting vulnerability on a spicy track. The early part of this game threatened to follow a similar pattern after Mashrafe Mortaza won the toss and decided to field. Taskin Ahmed nearly castled Rohit in the very fast ball of the match, but the latter’s good form somehow allowed him to negotiate the sharp break-back.
The collective sigh of despair from the stands turned into a loud cheer when Shikhar Dhawan was bowled through the gate, attempting to play across the line to an Al-Amin Hossain delivery that swung in. Virat Kohli departed, mistiming a drive off Mortaza and Bangladesh sensed a real opportunity when Suresh Raina lost his middle stump to Mahmudullah.
Yuvraj Singh never inspired confidence, so it was down to Rohit to take India to safety. His batting was a joy to watch. Today it was all about playing late and waiting for the loose balls to arrive. He deserved the stroke of luck he had on 21 – a straightforward chance at backward point off Taskin that Shakib Al Hasan dropped.
It rained heavily in the morning and the outfield was a still little soggy. The ball was wet and the fierce square cut slipped out of Shakib’s palms. Taskin was hammered for a couple of fours and a six in the next three balls. Mashrafe, back for his second spell, was greeted with a gorgeous pull past short fine-leg, Shakib was swept to the mid-wicket fence for another boundary. The Bangladesh captain was punished again, this time for two fours and a six over long-off.
Rohit seemed to have an unfinished business against Mustafizur Rahman, India’s nemesis in the ODI series last year. The left-arm seamer was dispatched over the square leg boundary with contempt. By then, however, the match had slipped out of Bangladesh’s grasp. Rohit’s charge gave India’s run-rate, which was hovering around 5.2 till the 10th over, a facelift.
Yuvraj bungled a big opportunity to get into the groove but Hardik Pandya once again proved he could be the solution to India’s big-hitting problems down the order. He did it in Ranchi also against Sri Lanka. But today conditions were a little lopsided in favour of the seamers.
Pandya’s 31 runs off 18 balls and his 61-run partnership (27 balls) with Rohit helped India reach 166/6 in 20 overs. A six from the young Gujarat batsman stood out. Mustafizur attempted a cutter – a delivery that had proved to be very effective last year. This time, Pandya clobbered it over deep mid-wicket. The hosts lost nerve on the face of such fearless onslaught. They carried the uncertainties to their batting.
Nehra exploited it, bowling in the right areas. He breached Mohammad Mithun’s defence upfront before coming back at the death to dismiss Mahmudullah and Mortaza in successive deliveries. ‘Nehra Ji back,’ tweeted Virender Sehwag.
Only Sabbir Rahman among the Bangladesh batters looked to be game for a fight during his 32-ball 44. His six over deep mid-wicket off R Ashwin had authority. Another batsman who could have taken the attack to the opposition was run out. Shakib’s slip in the middle of pitch was the final nail in Bangladesh’s hopes.
Midway into the Bangladesh innings, fans turned on their mobile phone flash lights to further illuminate the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium. In fact, it was a carry forward from Chittagong last year when the crowd did it as dark clouds descended during a match against South Africa. The Mirpur stadium was resplendent under lights tonight. Fans probably wanted to lift the Bangladesh’s batting gloom.