Spinners set up India's victory
Bangladesh may have moved from the cool climes of England to hot and humid Sri Lanka, but they don't seem to have left at customs the habit of wasting scintillating starts by the openers. They collapsed from 81 for 1 to 100 for 4, and then lost their last six wickets for 12 runs. While the first setback was mostly self-inflicted, it was Virender Sehwag's canny spin bowling that ran through the lower order. In reply, Gautam Gambhir didn't look a million dollars, but made a satisfactory return to the side, scoring 82 to see India through to a bonus point.
Sehwag's 17-ball effort for 4 for 6 was the joint second-cheapest four-wicket haul in ODIs, behind Phil Simmons' 4 for 3 against Pakistan in 1992. Before that, though, Bangladesh displayed a few of their usual failings. Not surprisingly it all began with Mohammad Ashraful.
Imrul Kayes and Tamim Iqbal, as they did through the tour of England, got Bangladesh off to a flier. They treated Praveen Kumar and Zaheer Khan with contempt at the top of the innings. Cut, drive, the odd edge, and 35 were up in the third over. Tamim then got carried away and hit at one he wasn't close enough to. Suresh Raina came up with a diving catch, but Kayes carried on the good work.
It was impressive that, though he was beaten consistently in Zaheer's next two overs, Kayes kept his head, ending a spell of 11 straight dot balls with a punched boundary. Runs slowed down, mostly because Ashraful exaggeratedly kept leaving deliveries outside off. There was not much in the pitch or the bowling, and Ashraful's over-cautious approach hurt Bangladesh. There was not one single taken in the first 10 overs.
Kayes kept Bangladesh going with back-to-back boundaries off Nehra in the 12th over, but Ashraful was about to make his inevitable mistake. Soon after he managed one boundary, he attempted to go from first gear to fifth, and heaved Nehra to the only man on the square-leg boundary. Kayes made his mistake in Nehra's next over, being too slow in pulling a sharp bouncer. Shakib Al Hasan got a wicked straighter one from Harbhajan Singh, which could well have been intended to be an offbreak.
The pitch had started offering turn now, and Harbhajan and Ravindra Jadeja were tough to get away. From 100 for 4, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah, both of whom survived close lbw calls, took Bangladesh to 155, when madness struck again. Jadeja finally got his reward with a flat delivery that caught Mahmudullah's edge.
Immediately after, Sehwag was introduced. He bowled with lovely flight, slight drift, and mixed straighter ones in as well. Mushfiqur bat-padded a flighted delivery that jumped at him from outside off. MS Dhoni saw that and brought on Rohit Sharma too, who got a lucky break, with Naeem Islam given out caught behind when it seemed the noise came from his bat hitting the ground.
In the next over Sehwag destroyed the tail. Suhrawadi Shuvo was fooled by the straighter one, Shafiul Islam swept all over an offbreak, and Syed Rasel was castled by another straighter one. Sehwag still had one ball left in what could have been a three-wicket maiden. Dhoni's choice of ends for bowlers was good: with a wind blowing across the ground, Sehwag and Harbhajan bowled from ends where they could get drift.
India looked good for a bonus point for most parts of their reply, except for a few anxious moments when Shakib removed Virat Kohli and Rohit in two deliveries to reduce the chase to 80 for 3. It would have amounted to something for Bangladesh had Tamim, at third man, hung on to a simple offering from Gambhir, a blow that would have made it 93 for 4. It could well have been the inadequate flood lighting that Lasith Malinga spoke about at work.
That drop apart, Gambhir batted well, working hard, running hard, putting behind the occasional play-and-miss, and scoring mainly through nurdles and chips. Along with Virender Sehwag, he provided India a brisk start. India were 37 in the seventh over when Sehwag edged one outside off.
Gambhir then settled down for a hard-working innings, and Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel did their bit in making him work. His most flashy shot of the innings was when he danced down the track and drove Mortaza through covers to reach 21 off 27, taking India to 46 in the ninth over. Post the supper break, Shafiul Islam and Shakib too kept the batsmen honest.
After Shakib's double blow in the 15th over, Gambhir nearly let Bangladesh back in when he played a weak upper-cut off Shafiul. Tamim got under it, but never looked confident during that attempt. Gambhir was 48 then. By the time he finally got out, India needed only 10, with nearly 20 overs to go.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo