Bangladesh registered an emphatic 79-run victory against Team India in the first ODI played at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday. They did so by playing a fearless and astute brand of cricket that caught the visitors off guard.
MS Dhoni’s side just had the one change from their defeat to Australia in the semifinals of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in March, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar replacing the injured Mohammed Shami in the Indian playing XI.
The home side, though, had a few changes in personnel: with Mahmudullah Riyad injured, Litton Das was handed a debut, and the wicket-keeper batsman played purely as a batsman at No.3; Mustafizur Rahman, the 19-year-old left-arm medium pacer was the other debutant for Bangladesh, who played with four fast bowlers and no specialist spinner in their playing XI.
Their skipper, Mashrafe Mortaza, won the toss and chose to bat first on a typical-looking Mirpur wicket that was dark in color, but definitely a good pitch to bat on and provided very little purchase for the seamers, as well as the spinners.
Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar opened the innings for the hosts and adopted a rather bold approach against the Indian new ball bowlers.
Tamim, in particular, tried putting the likes of Bhuvneshwar and Umesh Yadav under pressure by dancing down the wicket and blindly throwing his willow at every delivery he faced. He took time to get going, scoring only 10 runs from the first 16 balls he faced but soon started middling the ball and that is how he, as well as Bangladesh, started accumulating runs in a canter.
Sarkar was calmness personified at the other end, playing proper cricketing shots and relying on timing to score runs. The wicket played true to its nature, with the ball coming nicely onto the bat and encouraging the batsman to play on the rise.
The sixth over of the innings, bowled by Umesh, was the breaking the shackles over for the hosts, who garnered a whopping 18 runs and swiftly moved up to 45/0. They had no hesitation, whatsoever, in continuing in that vein and were richly rewarded for their inclination to attack the Indian bowlers.
The run-rate and Bangladesh’s score sky-rocketed, and Dhoni, as usual, turned to his spinners in a bid to stop the hemorrhage of runs. He, however, didn’t find success instantly, as Ravichandran Ashwin failed to start off well and Sarkar enjoyed facing the Tamilnadu spinner, nonchalantly hitting fours and sixes off his first couple of overs.
Bangladesh reached the 100-run mark in the 14th over, which saw Sarkar complete his half-century and then run himself out by going for a single which was turned down by Tamim; Suresh Raina, fielding at short mid-wicket, came up with a direct hit that gave the visitors some sort of reprieve after the hosts’ openers had looked irrepressible.
Das joined Tamim in the middle, and the runs kept flowing from the southpaw’s end. Soon after, Team India were provided with a 63-minute timeout by the rain gods after the bruising they had developed from Bangladesh’s relentless punching, and the stoppage in play came at the right time for the Men In Blue, who used it to their advantage and picked up three quick wickets once play resumed.
Having said that, Bangladeshi batsmen – Tamim, Das and Mushfiqur Rahim – played reckless shots to get out, with Ashwin picking all three wickets and helping his side come back into the game. The home side went from 120/1 in the 16th over to 147/4 by the end of the 24th over and had a major rebuilding job to be done.
Shakib Al Hasan walked into bat at the fall of Das’ wicket, and found ‘the’ ideal partner in Sabbir Rahman, with the pair taking time to settle in and allowing India to string a few cheap overs. On that note, Dhoni was forced to use Raina, partly due to the number of left-handers in the Bangladesh line-up, but also because the fast bowlers leaked runs heavily and there was no one, other than Ashwin, to render some sort of control on proceedings. The Uttar Pradesh batsman bowled well and went on to complete his full quota of overs – something which the regular bowlers in Mohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar and Umesh couldn’t muster.
After a few quiet overs, Sabbir Rahman was the one to put the foot on the accelerator, as he and Bangladesh realized the importance of getting to the 300-run mark. He played some delightful strokes off all Indian bowlers, and probably, played the game-changing innings that took the initiative away from India. He scored a good looking 41 (44), and when he got out, his side had reached 230/5 by the end of 38 overs and still had a handy batsman in Nasir Hossain to join Shakib, who was holding fort at one end.
The hosts maybe didn’t score as many runs as they would have liked in the final dozen overs, getting bowled out for 307 in the 50th over of the innings, with Shakib scoring 52 (68), Nasir playing a valuable innings of 34 (27) and Mortaza chipping in with 21 (18).
308 was not a daunting total by any means, and Shakib, talking to Harsha Bhogle at half-time, strongly felt that the hosts were 25-runs short.
The Indian openers provided their team with a good start, though there were many a scary moment for them, and Bangladesh were quite unlucky to not pick at least a couple of wickets in the mandatory powerplay.
The visitors’ innings took a similar pattern to Bangladesh’s, as both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were sedate to start off with but got into a good scoring rhythm as the innings progressed. The Mumbai batsman, who top-scored for India with 63 (68), faced the majority of the deliveries in the partnership and also was the leading batsman.
India were going along smoothly and reached 90/0 from the first 15 overs, putting themselves in an enviable position in their pursuit of 308.
Like Bangladesh, India, too, lost wickets in a heap after the 15-over mark and their innings fell away swiftly, slumping to 129/5 by the end of 26th over and leaving themselves with too much to do.
Raina and Ravindra Jadeja strung a 60-run stand together, but it was always a matter of 1 wicket for Bangladesh to come roaring back and suck the life out of a possible Indian resurgence. They had to wait until the 37th over to get it, as Mustafizur dismissed Raina with a wonderfully disguised slower-delivery that took the inner-edge of the batsman’s willow and crashed onto the stumps.
India were surely heading for defeat once they lost Raina, and the home side completed the formalities of closing out the innings and the victory by 79 runs, in the 46th over.
Catch your breath back and continue reading… because we now start discussing the five things we learned from an invigorating Bangladeshi performance.
This Bangladeshi side boasts of a vastly improved batting unit
There were encouraging signs for Bangladesh at the last World Cup in Australia, where they chased down 322 against Scotland; very nearly chased down 291 against New Zealand, falling short by just 2 runs, and also posting a formidable 275 while batting first against a potent English bowling attack.
They have now carried over that form into their last couple of series’ including the ongoing one against India, and their batting performance in the first ODI was a staunch indicator of how long they have come as a batting unit.
It was not too long ago that we saw them capitulate miserably against a second-string Indian side last year, failing to chase down 105 at the same venue, and trust me, it wasn’t surprising to see Bangladesh collapse in that manner.
But in Mirpur yesterday, they were confident in the way they went about their business, with the openers palpably been given a license to play their strokes against the new ball and asking serious questions of the World Cup semifinalists, who for the second game in a row conceded over 300 runs in an ODI.
Now, let us be honest: if Bangladesh lost one early wicket, which looked likely when you saw Tamim play some high-risk cricket, they may well have not been able to execute their gameplan with the same efficiency they did.
But once they got through that anxious period, the boundaries kept flowing and Tamim was supported well by Sarkar, who typified class in the way he played his strokes and constructed the innings; watching Sarkar play feels like he is a carbon copy of Srilanka’s Jehan Mubarak, who can ooze class and elegance when in full flow.
The highlight of Bangladesh’s batting innings, for me, was the way Sabbir and Shakib rescued their team after they lost three quick wickets, and looked in a spot of bother at 147/4 by the end of 24th over.
Sabbir had to curb his natural instinct and be circumspect early on in his innings, which he was willing to do, but then the timing of acceleration came at exactly the right time. Let us also not forget Shakib’s role in this partnership, which was to stay there, rotate the strike and mentor the youngster at the other end.
Getting bowled out, in the end, was a slight blemish, but getting to 307 after looking in trouble at the halfway stage of the innings, was by far the most impressive aspect of the home side’s win yesterday.
A good batting wicket exposed Team India’s bowling frailties
One of the marquee aspects of India’s wonderful World Cup campaign that saw them go unbeaten until the semi-finals against Australia, was the way their bowlers achieved penetration against some good batting line-ups, like South Africa’s.
We, however, couldn’t overlook the nature of playing surfaces that were conducive to quick bowling, with India boasting of a couple of hit-the-deck bowlers in Shami and Umesh – who enjoyed plenty of success at the showpiece event.
Against Bangladesh in Mirpur yesterday, it was back to usual as far as the Indian bowling attack was concerned: inconsistent in line and length, lacking incision and struggling to keep the run scoring down.
The wicket was close to a marble top that didn’t have much purchase in it for the Indian seamers, and amongst the spinners, only Ashwin was able to extract some sort of turn and response.
However, we would be delusional to overlook the Indian bowling attack collectively failing to come up with the answers while bowling on a good batting wicket, which was harnessed by an exuberant Bangladeshi batting lineup.
Going forward, this is going to be one of the massive challenges for Dhoni and the Indian bowlers, who need to bowl the sub-continent lengths, find a way to keep the run scoring down and not over do the strategy of bowling back of a length and trying to unsettle the batsman like they managed to Down Under.
Bad bowling from India, in a way, was a result of Tamim getting after them from the word go and setting the tempo of the innings for his side; the Indian bowlers never managed to hit the right lengths, and it begs to wonder what might have been had rain not interrupted play during the hosts’ batting innings.
The home side’s decision to bat first paid off in the end
Mortaza’s decision to bat first was treated with slight bemusement from the commentators, who felt that the home side would have been better off bowling first and utilising whatever little assistance the seamers might have had from the surface that looked dark on the top. Not to forget the overcast conditions that prevailed at the time and the general consensus was there would be some swing in the air, at least.
Also, heavy rains were forecast for the day, and such a warning usually sees the captain winning the toss opting to bowl first to take advantage of the Duckworth-Lewis method later on in the game.
Bangladesh’s openers, though, started off well and were able to hit through the line of the delivery as a result of the lack of lateral moment. The pitch remained a good one to bat on for the length of the home side’s innings, as none of the wickets, barring Das’ leg-before to Ashwin, were a byproduct of good bowling.
There was, at least for me, a slight dip in the pace of the pitch when India came onto bat: the ball held up on the wicket a little, and the free-scoring Indian stroke makers found it hard to time their shots; it was obtrusive in the dismissals of Rohit and Ajinkya Rahane, who were into their shots a little early and ended up leading edging it to mid-off and extra cover, respectively. Also, there was much more turn for the spinners in the second half of the game compared to what the Indian spinners extracted earlier.
By saying that the wicket slowed up a little, I am taking no credit away from what the Bangladeshi bowlers did, as they valued the number of runs their team had put on the board and I felt their bowling attack was capable of stifling the Indian batting line-up. Taskin Ahmed was impressive throughout his spell of 6-1-21-2; Mustafizur used the wicket to his advantage, taking the pace off most of his deliveries and was rewarded for adopting such a tactic, as he ended up taking 5/50 from 9.2 overs; Shakib, too, operated in a way that suited the wicket, picking up Dhoni with an inviting stock delivery outside off-stump, so overall, Bangladesh’s bowlers and their bowling coach, Heath Streak, would have been happy with yesterday’s display.
The change in nature of the playing surface in the second half helped Bangladesh in a smidgen way, but batting first, and posting 307, turned out to be a tactical masterstroke.
India’s performance lacked verve, purpose and bite
I think ‘insipid’ is the right word to describe Team India’s performance last night, when they looked far from the team that fared so well in the World Cup and took everyone by surprise with the brand of cricket they played.
From whatever we have seen of Dhoni as the skipper of the Indian ODI team, the 33-year old may well have chosen to bowl first if he had won the toss, so the visitors didn’t lose anything when Mortaza won the toss and chose to bat first.
But on the field, India gave you the impression that they were going through the motions, contributing to misfields and considerably lacking in intensity. They needed that rain interval to regroup and come up with a few solutions, but then they couldn’t use the mini-kamikaze from the Bangladeshi batsmen to their advantage, which was disappointing.
When they batted, Rohit and Dhawan provided a good platform for the middle order, but then India lost 38/5 between the 16th and 26th over, and there was a genuine lack of application and care in the way they approached that middle phase of their innings.
Overall, when India look back on their performance yesterday, they are sure to ask a few serious questions of themselves.
Bangladesh proved that if you bowl well, scores such as 308 can be defended, after all
Most cricket fanatics have been mesmerised by what is transpiring in England in the ongoing five-match ODI series between England and New Zealand, which has seen the bat overwhelmingly dominate the ball, prompting talks of 350 becoming the modern day 275.
In the first ODI between Bangladesh and India in Mirpur, however, Mortaza and his troops showed that 300 remains a total that can be genuinely defended if you bowl well. The foremost credit has to be given to the Bangladeshi seamers for the way they stifled the Indian batsmen, by being aggressive in their approach, clocking good speeds and yet remaining consistent in their line and length of attack.
It should also be a warning to the Indian think-tank, that against good bowling sides it is not going to be a formality to chase totals in excess of 300 no matter how skillful your batsmen are.
India experienced that in the semifinals of the World Cup against a hostile Australian pace attack, and although we cannot make comparisons between that day in March and yesterday, Dhoni’s devils need to remind themselves that conceding over 300 will see them lose more games than they win.
Kudos to Bangladesh, though, for their energy and determination to prove a point to the side they lost to at the World Cup.
As a neutral, a Bangladesh win to start off with was all you could have asked for, to make this series more exhilarating and reveal the true color of India. Bangladesh outplayed their illustrious opponents in all three departments of the game, and it will be a test of India’s confidence and spirit in what is a do-or-die game for them in a couple of days’ time. Rain gods permitting, we have got a fascinating couple of games on our hands.