When Shakib Al Hasan dived to stop Sachin Tendulkar’s drive and then threw the ball back to the keeper to run him out the crowd at the Sher e Bangla stadium in Mirpur erupted in joy. That was the only joy they would derive on a disappointing night for their team.
Chasing an imposing 371 to win the opening Group B match of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup against co-hosts India, their innings never took off after the electrifying start provided by Imrul Kayes and Tamim Iqbal. The pair put on 50 in only 4.5 overs, 24 of these coming from one Sreesanth over. Once Kayes played away from his body and dragged a Munaf Patel delivery to his stumps, the scoring rate dropped and Bangladesh never looked like achieving the target.
A strangely subdued Tamim and Junaid Siddique put on a partnership of 73 but it consumed a lot of deliveries that the asking rate climbed to unattainable heights. Siddique had a life when Yusuf Pathan dropped him in the 13th over off the bowling of Munaf Patel. However, he couldn’t capitalize on this and was dismissed by a beauty from Harbhajan Singh. The off-spinner drew the batsmen a shade forward but the ball turned just enough for it to beat the bat and Dhoni effected a very smart stumping.
Only after reaching his fifty did Tamim show signs of opening up. But his dismissal in the 33rd over – he chipped a ball to Yuvraj Singh who took an easy catch at midwicket – made the task all the more difficult as the pitch was playing slower and slower. Skipper Shakib Al Hasan played very well for his fifty but did not have any support to carry the fight to the Indian camp. He ended up slog sweeping Yusuf Pathan to Harbhajan Singh at deep midwicket in a desperate attempt to force the pace. The rest of the batting caved in to the impressive Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan.
Earlier, Shakib al Hasan won the toss and put India in to bat on a strangely colored pitch. Frayed nerves were evident in the Bangladesh bowlers as Virender Sehwag opened the World Cup with a boundary. The over from the poor Shafiul Islam cost 12 runs and that set the tempo for the innings. Sehwag and Tendulkar put on a fifty partnership before the needless run-out of Tendulkar. Gambhir didn’t look very convincing in his stay at the crease but was quick to punish the bowlers whenever they erred in length. He was bowled off a ball that straightened after pitching. The lucky bowler was Mahmudullah.
That brought the in-form Virat Kohli to the crease. Sehwag and Kohli put on a big, sensible partnership that took Bangladesh out of the game. The way Sehwag paced his innings was remarkable. He started off aggressively against Shafiul and Rubel Hossain but was tied down for sometime by Abdur Razzaq. He got to his fifty with a six in the 15th over and then picked the singles and twos. He got to his hundred in the 32nd over of 94 balls and soon after opened up by playing a flurry of strokes. The next 75 of his runs came off just 46 balls.
Sehwag’s innings was not without chances, though. Shakib missed a chance to run him out in the 2nd over, then he played early at a ball and almost returned a catch to Razzaq. The last chance was a chip that just eluded the hands of midwicket. It was Sehwag’s day today and no one but himself could stop him. He ended up dragging a wide ball from Shakib on to his stumps in the 48th over. By then India had scored 355 runs.
Virat Kohli played a gem of an innings and justified his position in the team ahead of Suresh Raina. He did not try anything fancy but picked the runs at a very good strike rate. Some of his cover drives were a treat to the eye. The way he leans on the ball to caress it through covers is impressive. He got to a well deserved hundred off just 83 balls on his World Cup debut in the final over of the Indian innings. The last 10 overs gave India 94 runs and it was evident that they would record their first win of the tournament, which they duly did three hours later, by 87 runs.
The only worry for India in the match was the performance of Sreesanth. He was wayward, listless and sprayed the ball all around for the Bangladesh openers. He will need a miracle to play for India again in this World Cup. That is because Munaf Patel has laid strong credentials for the spot of the third seamer once Nehra is back picking up 4 wickets for only 48 runs. The good thing about Munaf is that he is a line and length bowler and this has paid rich dividends for him. It is another matter whether India needs to play three seamers and a spinner in the upcoming matches or play an extra specialist spinner instead of a third seamer.
Bangladesh would take their batting display as a positive and they probably lost the match because of two factors – Tamim Iqbal did not take the attack to the bowling after Kayes’ dismissal and they failed to take the batting Powerplay soon after the ball was changed in the 34th over. This combined with a little more disciplined approach from their fast bowlers early on in the innings would have seen them in a better light at the end of the evening.