World Cup 2019: Bangladesh is out but not before the Bengal tigers gave India a fight!

India is through to the semi-finals, but this was no smooth sailing for the Men In Blue, who found a feisty Bangladesh waiting to take them on! Here's why the Bengal team's bite is only getting sharper.

 |  5-minute read |   03-07-2019
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For decades, India-Pakistan has been cricket’s greatest rivalry — but in recent years, it’s India-Bangladesh that’s emerged as the most exciting contest among the South Asian siblings!

While India-Pakistan games have largely lost their much-hyped fizz, matches between India-Bangladesh have turned increasingly tighter — ever since Bangladesh ousted India from the 2007 World Cup, each clash between the two is a high-voltage affair.

Tuesday’s encounter was no different as the Bangla tigers roared till the end and India sneaked through to victory — by just 28 runs.

bangladesh1-reuters-_070319124903.jpgBangladesh lost: But they gave India no end of a fight. (Photo: Reuters)

Bangladesh has come a long way from the time when they were considered minnows of the cricketing world who allowed the opposition to walk all over them. Better administration by the Bangla cricketing board and strong under-19 programs have ensured that the country unearths talent that performs on the world stage. Given their rapidly rising cricketing stature, Bangladesh has had some intense battles with India of late and so, keeping recent history in mind and the grandeur of the occasion (a win would have kept Bangladesh alive in the WC), the entire cricketing world was glued to this encounter.

The coin fell in Virat Kohli’s favour and he decided to bat on the same ground where they had lost to England just two days back. With the criticism about the slow run rate in the first 10 overs of the previous game, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul looked keen to dispel all pre-match talk. They played aggressively and kept the run rate constantly around the 6 run mark.

Very early though, Bangladesh gave a huge reprieve to Sharma who, after hitting a six earlier, skied a pull of Mustafizur Rahman. The ball got more height than distance and though it looked like it would be comfortably lapped up, Tamim Iqbal dropped the regulation catch at deep square leg. Rohit was batting on just 9 and, after this lucky break, shifted into a higher gear. Seeing his senior pro demolish the bowling, Rahul too grew in confidence and both of them put on this World Cup’s highest opening stand of 180 runs in 30 overs.

Just when it looked like India would set a target upwards of 350, Rohit got out — but not before he had completed his 4th century in this championship so as to head the list of leading run scorers in the tournament.

Strangely though, the Indian innings didn’t ride the momentum given by the openers as Kohli got out early. Rishabh Pant looked set to get his first half century in the World Cup but fell for a strokeful 48 and despite India including Dinesh Karthik in place of Kedar Jadhav, to strengthen their middle order, the team could muster only 314.

Mustafizur kept chipping away and earned 5 wickets — Dhoni played almost a run a ball knock of 35, showing how he is the glue that holds the middle and lower order together when everyone else falters around him.

dhoni-ap-inside_070319125147.jpgHe's still the glue we need: MS Dhoni was not flamboyant but made 35 runs, which anchored the innings. (Photo: AP)

With a strong batting line-up at its disposal, Bangladesh would have been happy to keep India to a par total though chasing over 300 in a crucial, must-win game is never easy. Their openers began steadily but were always below the required run rate. Brought in place of Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar opened the bowling with Jasprit Bumrah but they were unable to crack through in the initial spell.

It was Mohammad Shami who again got India its first breakthrough when Tamim Iqbal chopped on misreading the length.

The star campaigner for Bangladesh, Shakib-Al-Hasan, now took centre stage. In this World Cup, he has been exceptional with both bat and ball — and soon showed why he’s being rated as the player of the tournament till now. With a mix of deft touches and big blows, Shakib struck his sixth fifty-plus score and kept Bangladesh in the hunt though his partners regularly departed from the other end.

With no 6th bowler as a back-up, Hardik Pandya had a great responsibility — and he seemed to relish the extra burden on him. From slow cutters to fast bouncers, Hardik Pandya looked accurate and was rewarded with three prized scalps, including that of Shakib-Al- Hasan. Just when the star Bangladeshi all-rounder looked determined to take his team to victory, a slower one got him checking his shot and he holed out to Dinesh Karthik at covers.

In fact, the slower ball became a lethal weapon on a pitch that was low and slow and where the ball was regularly gripping the surface. Plenty of batsmen, from both sides, got out failing to judge either the length or the speed of the delivery, particularly Bangladesh batters who never had any substantial partnership to threaten the Indian total.

But this is where the never-say-die spirit of the Bangladeshi team came to the fore.

shakib-al-hasan-ap-i_070319125305.jpgSuperb player: Shakib-Al-Hasan's 50 kept Bangladesh in the hunt. (Photo: PTI)

With 6 wickets down at 179 and Shakib back in the hut, few would have anticipated the fight by Sabbir Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin — they put on a partnership of 66 in just under 10 overs to set the cat among the pigeons.

Even after Sabbir was dismissed by Bumrah, Saifuddin didn’t lose hope and continued the march to keep his team alive in the competition.

The usually chirpy Virat Kohli now looked tense.

In the 48th over, Saifuddin completed his fifty with a fantastic straight drive beating the diving Kohli at deep mid on. He took a single the next ball and Bangladesh now needed 29 from 14 balls. The run, however, exposed Rubel Hossain to the world’s best death-overs bowler — Jasprit Bumrah now smelled blood and went for the kill. He bowled perfect yorkers at searing pace to first clatter Hossain’s stumps and then, like a loaded gun, unleashed again to demolish the base of Mustafizur’s stumps.

Bangladesh had lost — but it had earned great respect among their peers!

As they fought valiantly and gave India quite a scare, Bangladesh can hold their heads high even though they are now out of the competition. Over the years, they have made sometimes silent, sometimes loud progress towards being a top team. Around the world, teams would now know that the Bangla tigers are stronger, on the prowl and they better beware!

Also read: MS Dhoni, Please Retire! It pains me to say this as a Dhoni fan, but it’s time Captain Cool calls it quits

Writer

Rajan Mahan and Siddhaarth Mahan

Rajan Mahan is a professor of journalism at the University of Rajasthan and Siddhaarth Mahan, is a state level cricketer, actor and writer.

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