Alok Kapali's dazzling 115 gave Bangladesh a fighting chance, but their inability to hold on to catches meant that India breezed past another stiff target at the National Stadium in Karachi. Two days after making mincemeat of 300 against Pakistan, they overhauled Bangladesh's 283 with 40 balls to spare. Suresh Raina, with a century against Hong Kong and 84 against Pakistan earlier in the tournament, stroked a magnificent unbeaten 116, adding 139 for the third wicket with Gautam Gambhir to set up the game for India. Gambhir's 90 spanned just 84 balls, and there was enough time for Yuvraj Singh to thrash a couple of mighty sixes before the curtain came down.
Shahadat Hossain, all lively pace and whole-hearted grunting, had hinted at an upset with two wickets in the first Powerplay, but the partnership between Raina and Gambhir upset Mohammad Ashraful's best-laid plans. Butter fingers didn't help.
Gambhir had made 56 when his attempt to muscle Mashrafe Mortaza over the infield was sliced up in the air towards point. Farhad Reza made a mess of the catch. Soon after, still in the final Powerplay, Raina experienced his own adrenaline-rush moment, top-edging a pull. But again, Mortaza's celebrations were aborted as Mahmudullah spilt the chance at fine leg. Raina had made just 16.
Bangladesh had started well enough, with Robin Uthappa inside-edging a full delivery onto his stumps. That brought in Rohit Sharma, another batsman whose fortunes have waned in recent times. With Bangladesh especially generous with overthrows, India didn't need to take undue risks, and Rohit soon got going with an imperious pull and a cover drive for fours.
With Gambhir cutting and pulling anything that was slightly off target, the 50 came quickly enough, but soon after Rohit flicked Shahadat straight to midwicket. Raina was content to rotate the strike early on, and Gambhir quickly got to his half-century with a four and six off Mahmudullah. Then came the bloopers, and that was effectively that.
Neither batsman wasted run-scoring opportunities, with Gambhir frequently stepping out to drive on the walk as has become his wont. Raina leant into some gorgeous drives, but also pulled ferociously when the bowlers dropped short. Both also judged the singles to a nicety, ensuring that the required-rate never even went over six.
Slipshod fielding had played its part in Bangladesh's surge to 283 as well. Kapali had made just 25 when Manpreet Gony misjudged a catch at long-on off the bowling of Yusuf Pathan. Gambhir gave him another reprieve late on, but by then he had roared into three figures.
The innings exploded into life in the final eight overs, when 90 runs were amassed as Kapali cut loose with a ferocity that brooked no answer from the Indians. Mahmudullah turned over the strike at the other end, contributing only 24 to the 112-run partnership as Kapali struck the ball with power and precision.
Pragyan Ojha had bowled a tidy spell and taken two wickets on debut, Pathan had given little away, and Ishant Sharma had kept things quiet when called upon. But when Yusuf came on to bowl his final over, Kapali, then on 47 from 64 balls, exploded into life. Two big slog-sweeps for six set the tone, and when RP Singh returned, both batsmen scythed him over backward point for fours.
Gony, whose second international outing was a great deal more taxing than the first against Hong Kong, then went for 4, 6 and 6 as Kapali started to swing with genuine confidence. Mahendra Singh Dhoni once again turned to Ishant to apply a tourniquet, but to no avail. Kapali clipped a slow yorker beautifully through midwicket and then carved one past point as 61 came from just five overs.
Bangladesh had started sedately, but when Nazimuddin cut RP straight to third man, Mohammad Ashraful arrived to up the ante. With Gony straying on to the pads once too often, the runs came quickly. Tamim Iqbal drove fluently and Ashraful utilised both power and touch as the run-rate soared to six.
Unfortunately for Bangladesh, Ashraful's profligate streak then came to the fore. Gony had been brought back for a second spell, and a half-hearted drive on the up went to Ojha at mid-off. A first international wicket for Gony, and a first catch for Ojha.
Tamim eased past 50 but a moment's carelessness was to cost Bangladesh dearly. Having creamed Ishant through the covers for four, he then tried to deflect one fine off the pads. Dhoni made good ground to his right to take a splendid catch.
Raqibul Hasan was flummoxed soon after, as Ojha came up with a beautiful delivery that turned past the defensive prod to take off stump. Mushfiqur Rahim and Kapali consolidated with a 49-run partnership, but India's bowlers, with Ojha varying his flight cleverly, were slowly establishing a stranglehold.
Ojha's second wicket came courtesy a little extra bounce, with Mushfiqur's attempt at a cut finding only Dhoni's gloves, but the scent of a quick kill turned into a bloody nose as Kapali blazed away like a Catherine wheel. Had Bangladesh taken their catches, there might have been even more fireworks to illuminate the Dhaka night.