Kohli cracks unbeaten ton as India ease home
With a place in the final already clinched and nothing much at stake, most of India's batsmen batted sloppily. However there was no such charity from Virat Kohli as he struck a mature unbeaten century to ensure that India went into Wednesday's game on the back of three successive wins.
Shakib Al Hasan's 85 and a 106-run partnership with the lively Mahmudullah had lifted Bangladesh from a dismal 95 for 5 to 247 for 6, but on a placid track and against a line-up in form, it was nowhere near enough. India cantered home with seven overs to spare.
Kohli played with commendable concentration until victory was in sight, driving and cutting beautifully even as wickets fell around him. He got his first reprieve on 83, when Mohammad Ashraful put him down at deep midwicket off Syed Rasel, and the butter-fingers epidemic appeared to catch on, with Mushfiqur Rahim fluffing a stumping off Shakib in the next over. Ashraful's woeful outing continued when he dropped Suresh Raina two balls later. It summed up Bangladesh's evening in the field though the match was as good as over by then.
The only interest towards the end of the game centred around whether Kohli would get to his second century. The first 50 had taken just 47 balls, and he was especially severe on Shafiul Islam in his final spell, off-driving and pulling with authority. Naeem Islam was punched off the back foot for four and when Rasel decided to test him with a short one, he pulled it behind square for four. Victory and three figures were completed in a hurry, with an off-drive and a leg-side swish off Shakib.
Bangladesh needed early wickets to send any tremors through the Indian ranks but they didn't get them. Shafiul bowled some fine deliveries, but also offered width that Dinesh Karthik was quick to capitalize on, cutting powerfully past the inner ring for fours. With Gautam Gambhir glancing anything directed at his pads and Karthik easing one through the covers, India were off and away.
When Abdur Razzak came on, Karthik greeted him with a fierce heave over midwicket, but his cameo ended on 34 when he under-edged Shafiul to the keeper. Shafiul continued to be expensive though, with Gambhir taking three fours in an over, and it was left to Naeem to strike in his first over and give the team some hope.
Gambhir sauntered down the track to Naeem and swiped airily, only to see his stumps broken. But with Kohli cutting Shakib for boundaries and playing a gorgeous on-drive, the asking rate was in no danger of climbing. Yuvraj Singh was becalmed against spin though, and after a superb cover-drive, Naeem had him playing down the wrong line to be trapped in front. MS Dhoni glimmered briefly for 32 before clipping Shakib to mid-on, but there were no further alarms as Raina and Kohli saw it home in dew-heavy conditions.
Naeem had contributed a brisk 22 late in the Bangladesh innings as they took 47 from the batting Powerplay and 95 from the final 10 overs to reach a respectable score. Mahmudullah continued his good form against India, remaining unconquered on 64. Shakib was dropped by Dhoni off Yuvraj when he had made just 38 and he took advantage with some punishing strokes in the final stages of the innings. A huge six over midwicket off Ravindra Jadeja started the acceleration, and he took Amit Mishra in the same direction when he dropped short.
There was some fortune, with a top edge clearing Dhoni for four, but there was also plenty of ability, with Sudeep Tyagi being pulled for two fours and then scooped impudently down to fine leg. But when he tried to repeat the stroke off Ashish Nehra's slower ball, he only found Dhoni's gloves.
Mahmudullah had started off with a thump over cover off Mishra, and he then lofted Nehra to long-off for four more. Sreesanth was cut powerfully to the ropes and Mishra hit over long-on for six as the runs came far more freely in the final stages. Naeem swung Nehra for a six at the end and slashed another four as the sparse crowd celebrated a frenetic finish to the innings.
India had started much the better. After a maiden from Tyagi, Imrul Kayes had flailed twice through the off side as Sreesanth pitched too wide, but when he tried the same approach against Tyagi, Kohli snaffled him at point. Ashraful had no thoughts of consolidating - after playing one reckless shot to third man, he decided to give Sreesanth the charge and played on via the pads.
Raqibul Hasan played some chancy strokes, and a delightful pull off Tyagi, while Tamim Iqbal, after a cautious start, lofted Sreesanth over mid-on and then pulled him for four. But again, a wicket fell when they could least afford it, with Tamim driving Nehra on the up to mid-off, where Tyagi took an excellent catch on the run.
Raqibul was then run out as Yuvraj managed to deflect a Shakib drive on the stumps, and though Shakib gave the fans something to cheer with some crisp strokes through the off side, Mushfiqur lobbed a slower one from Yuvraj straight to the man at cover to leave the side in disarray with half the overs remaining. Honour was partially restored by the end, but once again India were just too strong, even with Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan not taking the field.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo