A half fit Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a great innings that saw India hold its pride against Bangladesh at Mirpur. In a truly interesting contest between both the sides, it was eventually the visitors drawing the first blood courtesy of a super cool partnership between Dhoni and the newly wed Dinesh Karthik. India won the game from the jaws of defeat. For the record, they inflicted the same margin of defeat that of ‘five wickets’ to a side that changed their fortunes in the recent World Cup.
It was going to be the first ODI after the World Cup, but the rain gods almost played the role of unwanted guests to a vociferous full house. The match got off to a delayed start which saw it to be curtailed as a 47-over one. Habibul Bashar won the toss and decided to bat first despite the cloud cover. He believed that a total of around 230 would be a healthy one. The home side was without their match winner Mashrafe Mortaza, who was out with a back problem. The Indians went with the three quicks and the spinner in Ramesh Powar. Gautam Gambhir was chosen ahead of Robin Uthappa to partner Sehwag while Dinesh Mongia played the batting all rounder.
There was plenty of encouragement for the new ball to swing which only Sreesanth could do. Zaheer was only getting marginal movement and was once again rattled by the sensational Tamim Iqbal who repeated the World Cup dose. This allowed Javed Omar to keep things solid and the result was a steady opening partnership that frustrated the fielding side. It was only in the 17th over that India could find their first success on the tour with Tamim Iqbal holing onto Sehwag off the bowling of Dinesh Mongia. Bangladesh got to a good start with 78 on the board with Tamim falling for 45 from 53 (with 6 fours). The second powerplay which was held back because of Tamim was taken after his departure. Skipper Habibul Bashar played in the hands of the tourists by charging down the track to play a big shot off Ramesh Powar only to chip him tamely into the hands of mid on. It was only the second ball that Bashar had faced, all he could achieve was a duck.
Young Saqibul Hasan was sensible enough in biding his time and with Javed Omar helped in laying a firm foundation for the Bangladeshi innings. Javed Omar was way too slow to begin with, but he made use of the opportunities to catch up with the scoring rate. He missed a century though as he ran out of fuel to be found short in his running. The opener made 80 from 117 balls with 7 fours and two sixes. Bangladesh were 185 for 3 and in no time were 200 for 4 with Saqibul also departing. But then the pair had taken the Tigers into the slog overs with the much more talented Ashraful and Aftab to take charge. As far as Saqibul is concerned, he got exactly 50 having faced 68 balls with 2 fours. Bangladesh closed their innings at 250 for 7 with Ashraful showing his class in his brief cameo of 29 from 22. Among the Indian bowlers, Dinesh Mongia was the most successful one taking 3 for 49 in 10 overs. Ramesh Powar took 2 for 55 in his 10 overs which had plenty of over flighted off breaks that dipped down beautifully. There was an injury scare for India when Sreesanth was carried to the dressing room following cramps. However he did return back to the field later but did not bowl a single ball.
The two dynamic openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag as usual were in a hurry and with that India got off to a blistering start going at 10.00 runs per over. However, Gambhir’s dream start was cut short to an individual score of 21 from 17 as Syed Rasel trapping infront of the stumps. Sehwag joined his state mate a little while later, falling to a brilliant diving catch by Saqibul after making 30 from 21. Both the opening batsmen scored a combined 11 fours. Dhoni got a promotion at no.3 but he couldn’t break free straightaway with India slipping to 63 for 3 with Yuvraj Singh (1) done in by the sluggish nature of the pitch. Captain Rahul Dravid began to repair things with Dhoni but he was also a victim of playing too early. His prized wicket was taken by Saqibul with Dravid making 22. Dinesh Mongia came in, got a partnership going but perished through a soft dismissal.
The visiting team was under tremendous pressure at 144 for 5 with the required run rate creeping up and also the fact that not much batting was left. Dinesh Karthik entered the scene to play numerous sweep shots to keep the scoreboard ticking. Dhoni at the other hand was struggling with cramps in his hamstring, he was helped by a runner in Yuvraj Singh. There was no looking back as the trio hit the gaps continuously to reduce the target from three figures to less than 50 runs. Once that was done, victory was assured for the Indians with five wickets standing. The Bangladeshi bowling at this stage wasn’t good enough to take the wickets and India strolled to victory with six balls to spare. Dhoni remained unbeaten on 91 with just the 7 fours, an innings that got him the Man of the Match while Dinesh Karthik came out with 58 from 60 with 4 fours. The second match of the series is at this same venue on the 12th.