India 261 for 3 (Kohli 103*, Gill 53, Rohit 48) beat Bangladesh 256 for 8 (Litton 66, Tanzid 51, Mahmudullah 46, Jadeja 2-38, Bumrah 2-41) by seven wickets
The sameness to a Virat Kohli innings in a middling chase is no criticism of his batting. The beauty of it lies in the repetitive nature of it, a mark of his hunger to make every start count. On Thursday, it helped deliver ODI century No. 48, which takes him that much closer to the man who he hoisted on his shoulders on that famous April night in 2011, before delivering an epic line that made a country of more than a billion shed happy tears.
Kohli’s knock, which turned into a race between his hundred and a victory towards the end, was preceded by a run-torrent from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. The pair’s 88-run opening stand in a chase of 257, which seemed well short of a par score, was an exhibition of batting aesthetics dreams are made of. Rohit, with his lazy elegance, ferocious cuts and monstrous pulls did the early running, and Gill took over the mantle to slowly get into top gear.
And after the two fell against the run of play, caught in the deep to shots they’d back themselves to execute 99 times out of a hundred, Kohli ushered everybody aboard his train of ODI batting that has delivered runs unfailingly. Fleeting cameos from Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul topped off a dominating win, India’s fourth, that now puts them level at the top with New Zealand, their next opponents on Sunday in Dharamsala.
It was one that had been set up by Ravindra Jadeja, both with the ball and on the field with his catching. His figures of 2 for 38 may not seem blockbuster at first glance, but it played a massive role in pulling Bangladesh back from an innings that was at one point running at a breakneck speed.
From 10 for 0 in five overs, the next four went for 37. Tanzid Hasan soon got into gear and raced towards a maiden ODI half-century off 42 balls. He hooked Jasprit Bumrah, toyed with Shardul Thakur and took him for 6,4,6 in a forgettable opening over and laid down a marker for the innings. But as spin came on, Kuldeep Yadav delivered an opening in the 15th to break a 93-run stand.
In between that, India had a jolt with Hardik Pandya hobbling off three balls into his opening over, after twisting his left ankle in his follow-through. You wondered then if the absence of a sixth bowling option would hurt them. It didn’t as Shardul bounced back from his opening over to bowl eight more, even picking up a wicket before Mahmudullah hurt his figures in his final over.
Pandya didn’t return for the rest of their innings and wasn’t needed with the bat either, but once the euphoria of the result dies down, realisation of how massive Pandya is to the balance of the team will dawn sooner.
Even as Kuldeep slowed the innings down, Jadeja brought the crowd to life with his accurate wicket-to-wicket stuff that sent back Shanto. By now, runs had reduced to a trickle and the pressure to up the ante also got Litton chipping one straight to long-off to give Jadeja a second wicket. At 137 for 4, the innings was in build-rebuild-build mode.
Mushfiqur Rahim played an array of neat paddles and sweeps to keep the scorecard ticking in the hope of taking the innings deep, but the resultant pressure from Towhid Hridoy’s struggles – he was on 14 off 32 – with 14 overs left, led to him trying to be a bit more enterprising, especially with Hridoy unable to capitalise after playing himself in.
One such chance off a Bumrah cutter found an acrobatic Jadeja diving full-stretch to his right to pull off a sensational grab to send back Mushfiqur for 43. It was as exhilarating as Rahul’s stunning grab at full stretch down leg to dismiss Mehidy Hasan a while earlier. The superhit moments on the field continued when Bumrah dismantled Mahmudullah with a pin-point yorker, but not before the allrounder’s 46 had somewhat lent respectability to Bangladesh’s total.
It set up the kind of chase teams can be wary of, not sometimes knowing how hard to go up top. But India’s plans seemed clear. Rohit wasn’t going to tamper with the fundamentals of his reinvigorated game that centers on taking the attack to the opposition in the powerplay. But on 48, he went for a pull that was right out of the screws, except it found deep square.
Kohli had two free hits off his first four balls that he converted into a boundary and a six to fire his innings into orbit straightaway. There on, he didn’t look back. He drove well, ran hard, manuovered spin expertly, and also treaded caution especially against the skiddy Hasan Mahmud.
Like Rohit, Gill too fell against the run of play after tantalising with some languid shots to signal, signs of dengue seemingly a thing of the past. Shreyas Iyer would have perhaps been a tad disappointed at not seeing the game through especially after playing himself in, but the timing of his dismissal was hardly a reason to fret for India. Rahul calmed the nerves before he reined his game in to allow Kohli to get to the landmark.
At one point, India and Kohli both needed 19. You wondered briefly if No. 48 had to wait. But it didn’t need to. With two needed, Nasum fired one down leg in anticipation of a wide that wasn’t given. One ball later, Kohli stepped out and hacked a low full toss into the deep midwicket stands to seal victory.