Rohit Sharma is a one-day nerd. He takes his time at the start, gets accustomed to conditions and cashes in only once he is set. India were sent in on a noticeably green pitch in Mirpur and the ball was nipping about. Bangladesh, armed with four fast bowlers, made the test as difficult as they could with tight lines around the off stump and moving the ball both ways. Shikhar Dhawan failed. Virat Kohli failed. Suresh Raina failed. Rohit could have failed too – he had 21 hard-earned runs when he was dropped by Shakib Al Hasan – but he did what good batsmen do and cashed in. Soon, even questions meant to flummox him – like Mustafizur Rahman – became easy. He mistimed one of Mustafizur’s delivery for a six over square leg en route to a pristine 83 off 55 balls which led India past Bangladesh in their Asia Cup T20 opener.
Rohit’s form is old news for India. His innings was clearly the difference between the two sides, but the most heartening outcome from the Mirpur match was Hardik Pandya passing his own exam with flying colours. He was promoted to No. 6, ahead of MS Dhoni who was declared fit to play even if he had to use a back brace while keeping wicket, and matched Rohit’s strike rate. What was remarkable is that Rohit usually goes beserk after he has bedded into an innings, but Pandya was able to reel off boundaries – five in 11 balls – to thrust India’s score from the possible to the improbable. They had been 97 for 4 with only 5.1 overs left and finished at 166 for 6.
That total was placed under a little trouble from Sabbir Rahman, who struck 44 off 32 balls, but the other end became a revolving door of batsmen and by the end, Bangladesh’s concerns were more about batting the 20 overs out than chasing the total down. With each passing minute, they would have felt sore at what could have been. Had Shakib taken Rohit’s slice at point in the 11th over, India would have been stuck with a misfiring Yuvraj Singh, a relatively untested Pandya, the back-spasm hit Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja.
But Rohit was still around, and Taskin Ahmed was smarting from the missed opportunity. That pain would only increase as Rohit caressed the very next ball to the third man fence, then smashed a short and wide one over point for six and finished the hat-trick with a little help from Al-Amin Hossain misfielding at third man again. After his reprieve, Rohit struck at 229.62. Pandya came in and went at 172.22. Their partnership for the fifth wicket reached 50 off 17 balls and was broken only in the final over after 61 runs in 27 balls.
Such a finish seemed too good to be true when Taskin and Mustafizur – both bowling at over 140 kph – used the early help to great effect. The pressure they created fetched wickets at the other end as Al-Amin got a fuller delivery to dart back into Dhawan and bowl him through the gate in the second over.
It was a brilliant start for Bangladesh , not least because Al-Amin usually does not bowl the one that comes back into left-handers. Mashrafe Mortaza, the Bangladesh captain, brought himself on in the fifth over and immediately got rid of Kohli. With the score on 22 for 1, Kohli tried to break the shackles by targeting the slowest bowler among the opposition. The problem was this was not quite the pitch to drive on the up in the early stages of an innings because even if the moment had died down, there was considerable bounce. Kohli skewed a catch to mid-off and walked off with an accusatory stare at the splice of his bat. Raina’s dismissal also typified panic-stricken batting. With the pacers holding sway, he ran at the second ball he faced from the spinner and was bowled.
Bangladesh’s discipline as a unit until this point was thorough and unyielding. The bowlers kept Yuvraj to 15 off 16 balls as well, but the fielders did not match their intensity. It was a mistake that ended up costing them the match for they should never have let India get to 166.
That total was more than enough to inspire a fine new-ball spell from Ashish Nehra, who cleaned up Mohammad Mithun and soon after, Jasprit Bumrah shocked Soumya Sarkar with extra bounce. Pandya’s medium pace proved handy again and R Ashwin’s offspin tied Bangladesh’s middle order in such knots that the wicket he got – Imrul Kayes caught slog sweeping on the square leg boundary – seemed destined. Nehra came back in the closing stages and knocked over Mahmudullah and Mortaza in two balls to finish with 3 for 23 and India were toasting a fine, all-round T20 performance