Ex-India Under 19 Captain Virat Kohli cemented his place in the senior side further with a lovely unbeaten century in the last league match of the Idea Cup. Playing in just his 19th ODI, the 21-year-old seized the opportunity of being the hero with both hands to steer India to a 6-wicket win and to defy a possible upset from the hosts. The Delhi lad now has 5 fifties and 2 centuries with an average of 58.23!
MS Dhoni didn’t do any experiments like Kumar Sangakkara did the other day and opted to field first having won the toss. India made one change in resting Zaheer Khan and bringing back Ashish Nehra. The young Bangladeshi top order just threw their wickets away starting with left hander Imrul Kayes square driving Sudeep Tyagi uppishly to point in the 3rd over. Mohammad Ashraful, the most experienced batsman for the home side lost his mind when he gave the charge to Sreesanth in the 9th ball of his innings but only to drag his attempted big shot onto the stumps!
Danger Man Tamim Iqbal (17 from 31 balls) was subdued following the early loss of wickets and before he could break the shackles played a reckless flat batted shot to get caught at mid off. Nehra got that big wicket while Tyagi pulled off a great catch to his left to reduce Bangladesh to 60 for 3 in the 14th over. In the 18th over, Yuvraj Singh created an absolutely magic moment in his bowling when he smartly back palmed a punch off the striker onto the stumps at the non-striker’s end to have a backing up Raqibul Hasan unawares!
The Tigers from 67 for 4 were further dented at 95 for 5 in the 24th over when little Mushfiqur Rahim drove Yuvraj early to spoon a catch at covers. India was in a position to wrap things up quickly but the Captain and the bowler failed to do so. Dhoni erred in not bringing back his quicker bowlers and ended up playing to the strengths of Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah by persisting with spin at both ends. The two Bangladeshis found it easy to put up a resounding partnership and by the time the pacers returned, they got well settled in the crease.
It was only in the 46th over that India got its next breakthrough when Shakib Al Hasan threatening to run away with a possible century failed to get his scoop over the top of the keeper to a slower one from Nehra. Shakib had moved to 85 from 97 balls with 8 fours and a six while taking his side past 200. After that 106-run partnership for the 6th wicket, it was the short Naeem Islam (22 not out from 14 balls with 2 fours and a six) punishing the bowlers along with the tall Mahmudullah who remained on an unbeaten 64 (from 80 balls with 5 fours and a six).
Bangladesh posted 247 for 6 which was plenty of runs from the Indian point of view. Like in the last match against Sri Lanka, the Indian bowling failed to clean up things and went onto concede 95 runs in the last 10 overs! In India’s defence, there was no Harbhajan Singh in the last two games. Yuvraj was the best with 10-1-33-1. Sudeep Tyagi did well with his 6-2-24-1 and could edge out either Nehra or Sreesanth for the Final.
The opening pair of Dinesh Karthik and Gautam Gambhir once again provided a solid start to make the target look easy. Though Dinesh Karthik wasn’t striking the ball as well as he did against Sri Lanka, he still managed to score 34 from 39 balls with 3 fours and a long six over mid wicket with a pull off Razzak. He fell in the 12th over inside edging his pull off pacer Shafiul Islam with the score at 64.
Off Spinner Naeem Islam bowled a touch like Sri Lanka’s Suraj Randiv by getting some lovely flight, turn and bounce to provide the next breakthrough for the hosts. Gautam Gambhir (41 from 46 balls with 5 fours) couldn’t resist the temptation and stepped out of his crease to Naeem for a whack across the onside but only to get bowled having playing all around that drifter.
Bangladesh found an opening now with India at 87 for 2 in the 16th over. Yuvraj Singh (13) defied them from further success with a 46-run stand for the third wicket but got hit on the back pad playing inside the line to a drifter from Naeem Islam. It was the second time in this series that Yuvraj Singh has got dismissed playing inside the line of a delivery around his off stump. He got bowled to Syed Rasel doing the same in the previous matches.
India was in a potential danger at 133 for 3 in the 24th over but a determined Captain MS Dhoni held things together with the hard-hitting Virat Kohli. A fourth wicket partnership of 68 sealed the match for India. Dhoni (32 from 35 balls with 3 fours) threw his wicket only after setting up an easy win. The Indian Captain fell to his counterpart Shakib Al Hasan in the 37th over failing in a bid to clear mid on with a big whack. Dhoni perhaps played that shot to try and finish the match inside 40 overs for a bonus point although it didn’t matter at all.
With Dhoni exiting, Suresh Raina got some useful time in the middle to complete the match along with Virat Kohli. India took 43 overs to chase 248 and it came in style with Virat Kohli on 98 slogging a boundary through wide mid wicket and in the process also registering his century! Kohli got his 102 not out in 95 balls with 11 fours to get the Man of the Match. Raina ensured that Kohli got there by playing a relatively slow innings of 18 from 18 balls with one four.
Naeem Islam was the stand out bowler for Bangladesh with 8-0-35-2. Interistingly the dew arrived pretty late around the 25th over unlike the previous games which is good news for the India-Sri Lanka Final on the 13th!