After the India-Bangladesh T-20 match in the Nidahas Trophy, 2018 tri-series on Wednesday, I felt that the Tigers had deprived themselves of a back-to-back victory. Closely on the heels of last Saturday's epic win against Sri Lanka chasing down a target of 215 runs, the fourth highest in the history of international T-20 cricket, Bangladesh fancied its chances to defeat India.
It had lost by one run and all but clinched a match against a full Indian side in Bengaluru a couple of years back. But the team that India fielded at the Premadasa Stadium was not quite at full strength, though suffused with tested younger players. So man-to-man they could be matched and outplayed—so Bangladesh thought, especially after that gargantuan victory against Sri Lanka.
India won the second match against Bangladesh on Wednesday by 17 runs, a much narrower margin of victory than in the first encounter which India won by six wickets against the Tigers.
India put up a score of 176 for 3 wickets setting Bangladesh a gettable target of 177 in 120 balls. We finished our innings at 159 for the loss of six wickets. India goes to the finals through three straight wins, leaving Bangladesh and Sri Lanka perhaps in a semi-final contest. Both teams have another round to play. And, who gets the finalist's slot to play against India will be decided in favour of the team accumulating better run rate going forward. Can Bangladesh be in the reckoning? One wonders!
The scorecards do not give off the full cadence of the bowling and batting struggles between the two teams with only 120 balls to play for. Split-second change of gears and use of skill variants based on the template of the constantly changing over to run ratios make the T-20 version of cricket so challenging and attractive.
The pitch for Bangla-India match was slow, so both sides made a languid start. India's 49 in six powerplay overs compared with Bangladesh's 51 in seven overs. But we lost our top batsmen in quick succession, something that's amply illustrated by Bangladesh being at 64 for 4, vis-à-vis India's 68 for none.
Our bowling cramped India right up to the 15th over when big hitters like Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were kept unusually quiet by good bowling. Rubel bowled fiercely in the crucial 17th and 20th over. Although Mustafiz was not at his best, he came in for a round of praise by Sunil Gavaskar.
Frequent bowling changes in terms of the end from which they bowled and trying new bowlers may have betrayed a sign of indecisiveness. Still the fact that India was contained well within 180 runs must go down as a measure of generally effective bowling.
Even Pakistani commentator Aamir Sohail who had abrasively termed Bangladesh's bowling “pedestrian” against Sri Lanka in a match we would win magnificently in the end, spoke in praise of our bowling effort against India. In a cryptic remark, he wondered that although India was getting “ascendency, why it was not blasting.” He was effusively appreciative of Mustafizur, adding, “What a wonderful bowler to have in a line-up!”
Mushfiqur Rahim, fondly called “pocket dynamo” or “pocket rocket”, almost made it to the finishing line this time also with his unbeaten 72 in 55 balls. He could have repeated his Premadasa victory against Sri Lanka in the game with India, had a near-flying start been given by our specialist batters; they wouldn't have thrown away their wickets; and he would have partners like Sabbir a little earlier on.
To the BCCB president's reported expression of surprise over Mushfiqur's massive sixes, the “cheeky” batsman who puts “punch” into his shots as Sunil Gavaskar noted, merely pointed to the hard training sessions he was having of which the BCCB chief might not be aware.
It is somewhat inexplicable why Courtney Walsh's name hardly figures in discussions even though he is now head coach of team Bangladesh, stand-by that he may be. Notably since his elevation to that position, Bangladesh has been performing better than before—the last two matches should bear that out. Credit needs to be given where it is due.
Shah Husain Imam is adjunct faculty at East West University, a commentator on current affairs and former Associate Editor, The Daily Star.