Dhoni and Kohli seal comfortable win for India
A commendable performance with the bat, followed by an inspired opening burst wasn't enough for Bangladesh to pull off a surprise win against India at the Shere Bangla Stadium. The Indian middle order, led by Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, kept the hopes of the expectant crowd at bay with an ice-cool stand under pressure. For a while in the beginning of the chase, it seemed as if Shakib Al Hasan's decision at the toss would be vindicated, but the hard realisation hit home that even 296 wasn't enough to counter an in-form batting unit and a familiar foe called dew.
It undid all the hard work by a trio of half-centuries by Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes and Mahmudullah. Bangladesh posted their highest ODI total against a major Test playing country, surpassing their 285 against Pakistan. With India in trouble at 51 for 3, there was hope for Bangladesh. Shakib got his strategy right by unleashing his slow bowlers early and India had to sweat it out before they found their feet.
Abdur Razzak and Syed Rasel opened the bowling and kept the pressure by attacking the stumps. But it was a combination of casual running and purposeful fielding which led to Virender Sehwag's run-out, off a direct hit by the bowler Razzak. Sehwag failed to dive but he knew he was gone before the third umpire adjudicated. Gautam Gambhir dragged one on to his stumps and Yuvraj Singh played inside the line and lost his off stump to Rasel.
The match then turned when Dhoni and Kohli collaborated. Although Dhoni emerged the top scorer with 101, it was Kohli at the forefront in the stand of 154 for the fourth wicket. He displayed the kind of attitude and application one would associate with Rahul Dravid - cool under pressure, prepared to wait for the loose deliveries, push the singles and not get too bogged down if the boundaries aren't coming.
They struggled initially, hitting the ball straight to the fielders but later started to find the gaps. Two early boundaries off Abdur Razzak got Kohli going and he showed his strengths on both sides of the wicket , sweeping the spinners, cutting square and pulling whenever they dropped it short. The pressure began to tell on Bangladesh with a couple of misfields at the boundary - one by Tamim and the other by Razzak - was just what India needed. Kohli knocked it around and reached a valuable fifty.
As the dew worsened, the spinners were forced to bowl it flat and that gave the batting pair an opening as they kept the scoreboard ticking, without ever lagging far behind the required rate. Their stand featured 36 runs off boundaries, indicative of the number of singles and twos they picked up. The field was spread out and Bangladesh started going through the motions. They fluffed the only chance which came their way - a return catch put down off Dhoni by Shakib. At that stage, he was on 61.
Kohli started cramping up and called for a runner (Gambhir). However, he fell nine short of a century when he spooned one back to Shakib, this time hanging on to the catch. But the spinners failed to spark a collapse. Dhoni was quick to pounce on anything short and regularly rocked back to club it past midwicket. Suresh Raina joined him to finish the game comfortably with 15 balls to spare.
The defeat masked a sound batting performance by Bangladesh. Tamim batted with supreme confidence for an exciting 60 while Imrul played the supporting role, looking to occupy the crease and build partnerships. India clawed back during the middle overs before Mahmudullah scripted an attacking fifty during the batting Powerplay.
Tamim and Kayes added 80 in 11 overs on a sun-baked pitch which had no pace or movement for the seamers. Tamim played some enterprising shots on the on side, forcing Dhoni to get proactive with his field placings. His fifty came off 33 balls, the fastest by a Bangladesh batsman against India. Unfortunately, the entertainment ended when he tried to pull Sreesanth and found Gautam Gambhir at short midwicket. Kayes wasn't as flamboyant, but proved just as threatening. He preferred to stay at the crease and play his shots, grafting against the spinners and pushing the singles. He wasn't afraid to sweep Harbhajan Singh against the turn from round the wicket, and found the gaps at fine leg and deep square leg.
Bangladesh lost their way a bit after they lost Mohammad Ashraful and then Shakib for a duck. That was followed by another period of consolidation, between Raqibul Hasan and Mahmudullah who added 32 in 6.2 overs. Mahmudullah was scoreless for 11 deliveries but opened up with a sweep for four off Yuvraj. He was setting himself up for the batting Powerplay, which was delayed till the last five overs. Like in their opening game against Sri Lanka, the home fans were treated to another final-over flourish, this time by Mahmudullah. Three consecutive boundaries in the over, off Sreesanth, helped Bangladesh surge to 296. There was hope from the stands for another couple of hours before it all vanished.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo