Seamless return for India's injured
After Tuesday's hard-fought tournament opener, the second match turned into another chapter of the Asia Cup's long history of one-sided encounters. India won't be complaining though after a hassle-free victory over Bangladesh in a match in which they welcomed seven regulars back to the XI.
Sterner tests lie in wait but the Indian management will be satisfied that three players returning from injuries - Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and Virender Sehwag - didn't show any fitness trouble. Zaheer and Praveen had some problems early on against the rampant Bangladesh openers, but recovered after the brief onslaught. Sehwag, in fact, had shrugged off his shoulder worries so much that he wiped out the Bangladesh tail to finish with career-best figures.
Once the bowlers had done the job, Gautam Gambhir orchestrated the chase with another sensible innings that was more about placement than power. A strike-rate of 80 is pedestrian in most one-dayers these days, but with a tiny target on a track which wasn't tailor-made for batting, it was sufficient.
Gambhir said it took a while to switch to one-day pace after playing months of Twenty20. "When you are in Twenty20 mode you want to really hit the ball and these aren't the conditions for that," he said. "You have to graft your way through, and initially I was thinking of hitting the ball before I realised I have 50 overs, and not 20, to play."
Another factor to which the players must adjust to in Dambulla is the slightly dim floodlights, which Lasith Malinga talked about on Tuesday and MS Dhoni commented on after today's game. India will be thankful their batsmen got their first chance to play under lights when the requirements for a win weren't taxing. Adding to the floodlight trouble is the fact that it gets harder to bat as the match progresses.
"If you saw the last game also, the ball does a lot more [under lights] than in the afternoon," Gambhir said, "the kind of atmosphere here, the kind of breeze and kind of wickets here, it would definitely do a lot, anything around 250-260 will be a very good total on this track."
India's job was made easier by an all-too-familiar Bangladesh collapse after the top-order had galloped to 77 for 1 after 13 overs. There was a rash of bad strokes, but the Indian spinners were spot on as well. "It [bowling Bangladesh out cheaply] was the prefect platform for the top-order batsman to just go out there, get used to the wicket, get used to the conditions, and try and play a long innings," Gambhir said.
The win also came as a relief after the dismal World Twenty20 campaign and the embarrassing defeats in Zimbabwe and Gambhir credited the break for refreshing him. "You come back fresh, you forget what happened at the World Twenty20, you have more energy and you are more eager to perform." Also, victory with the bonus point reduces the pressure to win in the high-profile match coming up against Pakistan, who can't afford another defeat after the opening-day defeat.
It wasn't all hunky-dory for India though. Gambhir wasn't near his best, and the finish could have been more interesting had Tamim hung on to a catch at third man off Gambhir soon after Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were dismissed off successive deliveries. The ever-dependable Dhoni saw India through, but the youngsters missed out on a chance to get used to unfamiliar conditions. The pace department also needs improvement, though Zaheer was hostile in his second spell
Dhoni and his boys will face far tougher challenges in the rest of the tournament but they will be pleased to have not stumbled at the first hurdle.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo