Rahul, Dhoni tons, Kuldeep's return to form headline India's win

Kuldeep Yadav and Virat Kohli celebrate a wicket Associated Press

India 359 for 7 (Dhoni 113, Rahul 108, Shakib 2-58) beat Bangladesh 264 (Mushfiqur 90, Liton 73, Kuldeep 3-47) by 95 runs

The result of a warm-up match might not matter hugely, but India, who beat Bangladesh by 95 runs in what was the final preparatory fixture for either side, came away with more answers than questions - quite ideal a couple of days before the start of the World Cup. KL Rahul first scored a classy century to all but firm up the No. 4 slot for himself, and Kuldeep Yadav, out of form and under pressure, then put up a heartening performance with the ball, claiming 3 for 47.

For the record, in a 14 v 14 encounter - Bangladesh left out Tamim Iqbal and India Kedar Jadhav, though the latter did come out to field briefly - India batted first and put up 359 for 7, Rahul's 99-ball 108 from No. 4 and MS Dhoni's thoroughly dominant 78-ball 113 the highlights of their innings. Bangladesh looked on course when Liton Das and Mushfiqur Rahim were batting together, but with Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal getting among the wickets, they ended on 264, with three balls left in the innings.

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It was a strange sort of batting effort from the Indians, easily broken up into a few segments.

Shikhar Dhawan fell in the third over, and Rohit Sharma in the 14th, and by the end of the 15th over, India had only reached 58. Virat Kohli had stepped in and settled down by then, and while Dhawan and Rohit scored at 11.11 and 45.23 respectively, Kohli quickly passed the run-a-ball mark.

It wasn't easy going for him, though. Mustafizur Rahman, who bowled beautifully, hitting the perfect length and getting the ball to move in the air and off the pitch, got Kohli to nick one between the wicketkeeper and a very wide slip, and Rubel Hossain also caught the India captain's edge once. But Kohli was in good touch outside of those blips, and looked set for at least a half-century when Mohammad Saifuddin had his number. Saifuddin bowls usually in the 125kph range, and it really was a case of Kohli giving the bowler the charge and yorking himself in the process than any expertise on Saifuddin's part, though his celebrations belied that, while also making for some fun viewing.

But from 102 for 4 after 22 overs, when Rubel had Vijay Shankar caught behind, it was all India. Slow till that point, India rode on Rahul's class and Dhoni's belligerence to move to 150 by 30 overs, then 199 after 35, and 243 by 40. Rahul played the pulls and cuts especially well, while Dhoni smashed it around, particularly against the spinners, with disdain.

Rahul's century coupled with Vijay's failure, might have effectively finished off the No. 4 debate for India, but maybe the Indians missed a trick by not giving the likes of Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik some batting time once Rahul and Dhoni had had their fun. Oh, Dhoni certainly had fun, targeting the shorter boundaries and sending the ball over the ropes seven times, including the one he hit to bring up his century.

After the abject performance with the bat against New Zealand, where they rolled over for 179 in 39.2 overs before going down by six wickets, this was a heartening performance from the Indian point of view. The performance of the star opening pair, however, remains a cause for concern.

It wasn't a bad start for Bangladesh as they chased a big target, but Jasprit Bumrah pegged them back with a double-strike, sending back Soumya Sarkar and Shakib Al Hasan with consecutive balls. Liton and Mushfiqur, however, took control of the chase - the Indians did not bring back their frontline pacers at any stage - with a 120-run stand. They kept the required rate within reach and settled in nicely, till another two-in-two brought India back into the contest. This time, it was Chahal, who had Liton stumped and Mohammad Mithun lbw with a wrong'un to leave Bangladesh at 169 for 4 in the 32nd over.

But Mushfiqur, perhaps Bangladesh's most dependable batsman in the last couple of years - an average of 50.88 as against a career average of 34.95 - was still out there, and was playing a little gem. After settling down in Liton's company, Mushfiqur turned it on with a series of drives - off back foot and front - and some cracking slog-sweeps, a shot he has mastered.

Then Kuldeep led a turnaround. He was out of sorts during the IPL and then out of the Kolkata Knight Riders team, broken and battered, but after a wicketless warm-up against New Zealand, he finally struck when he beat Mahmudullah's hoick to hit timber. His expression changed, his body language improved, and he suddenly seemed to rediscover his flight and loop, and was getting both the legbreak and the wrong'un going. How much that meant to the team was also evident in the celebrations.

The third two-in-two of the innings came courtesy Kuldeep too, when he bowled Mushfiqur for a well-made 94-ball 90 and, off the next ball, had Mosaddek Hossain stumped with one that went the other way. From there to the end was only a matter of time.

It's serious stuff now. Bangladesh's World Cup campaign starts first, on June 2, against South Africa at The Oval, and India then play South Africa in their first game on June 5, in Southampton.