MELBOURNE:To say the India-Bangladesh match was a story of two halves in the first session might amount to oversimplification. A World Cup quarterfinal is an occasion of magnitude, where things are expected to be evenly spread. For practical purposes, the one taking place at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday was decided before the second innings. A total above 300 had never been surpassed in the knockout stages of the competition and once Bangladesh lost openers early, the contest was over.
The drama and intrigue befitting the stage came before the floodlights became prominent. On a day the sun shone bright amid forecast of rain and a short break caused by that, India battled troughs and turns before reaching a peak not expected at the halfway stage. Forget diehards, 302 after 99 in 25 overs was difficult to foresee even for experts. But then, this bunch is making defying odds habit. Job will be done no matter who does it and after a quiet start, Rohit Sharma came alive in inimitable style.
It was Rohit’s association with Suresh Raina that reduced the game to a tale of one innings, the first half of which saw Bangladesh claw back. At 51 without loss after 10, India had things under control, only to suffer a slump that encouraged the green gang to outshout blue in the stands.
Runs dried up, wickets tumbled and for over 15 overs, no four was struck. Spin and pace combined to contain a batting machine that looked set to get the platform. After wobble and choke, the task became consolidation and acceleration. What Rohit and Raina achieved was special because these are not easy to combine.
Rohit was in pristine touch and driving exquisitely, before being forced to graft. Raina took the initiative along with risks that helped the opener concentrate on hanging on. The batting powerplay saw the left-hander announce intent. He was responsible for a bulk of the 50 plundered in this period which helped India regain momentum.
The bowlers started straying in direction and Raina’s role in forcing errors can’t be overlooked. The partnership worth 122 off 15.5 was the turning point because it pushed Bangladesh to a corner where another recovery required something Herculean. If the underdogs still sniffed a chance, Rohit hit that elusive gear to take it beyond them. Few can make carnage look sublime and for a period, the ball kept screaming past or over the off-side cordon.
Bowlers were rotated, the length varied, but the man of big deeds was in a zone where everything was fit to drive. Head low, elbow straight, timing immaculate and nothing across the line, delicate sounds of thunder reverberated across the stadium as the three overs after Raina’s fall produced 40.
Bangladesh had no answer and after a point, the fielders just kept watching. Having a quiet World Cup so far, a big one from Rohit was not unexpected. The sense of responsibility on display was the bonus.
He was determined to bat long irrespective of what was happening around him and the lumber back after his second ODI hundred in MCG at the end of the 47th over suggested he was satisfied, not satiated. With tougher assignments coming up, this trait should make Men in Blue tough customers, concerned as much about the result as the way it is achieved.
The reply paled under lights after the openers fell in the seventh over. That there was no flicker of hope underlined the competence of this bowling unit apart from showing the effect the hammering had on Bangladesh. That it looked easy after hiccups was the highlight of India’s second successive entry to the World Cup semifinals, a feat last achieved in 1987 when they hosted it.
India: Rohit b Taskin 137, Dhawan st Mushfiqur b Shakib 30, Kohli c Mushfiqur b Rubel 3, Rahane c Shakib b Taskin 19, Raina c Mushfiqur b Mortaza 65, Dhoni c Nasir b Taskin 6, Jadeja (not out) 23, Ashwin (not out) 3, Extras (b4, lb7, w3, nb2) 16, Total (6 wkts, 50 overs) 302. Fall of wickets: 1-75, 2-79, 3-115, 4-237, 5-273, 6-296. Bowling: Mortaza 10-0-69-1; Taskin 10-0-69-3; Nasir 9-0-35-0; Mahmudullah 1-0-4-0; Rubel 10-0-56-1; Shakib 10-0-58-1.
Bangladesh: Iqbal c Dhoni b Yadav 25, Kayes (run out) 5, Sarkar c Dhoni b Shami 29, Mahmudulla c Dhawan b Shami 21, Shakib Al Hasan c Shami b Jadeja 10, Rahim c Dhoni b Yadav 27, Rahman c Shami b Yadav 30, Hossain c Ashwin b Jadeja 35, Mortaza c Dhoni b Mohit 1, Hossain c Ashwin b Yadav 0, Ahmed (not out) 0, Extras (b1, lb1, w8) 10, Total (all out, 45 overs) 193. Fall of wickets: 1-33, 2-33, 3-73, 4-90, 5-104, 6-139, 7-189, 8-192, 9-193. Bowling: Yadav 9-1-31-4; Shami 8-1-37-2; Mohit Sharma 7-0-36-1; Ashwin 10-1-30-0; Raina 3-1-15-0; Jadeja 8-0-42-2.