India has done many things right in the 2017 Champions Trophy but making a 265-run chase look like a stroll in the park probably ranks at the top. You could call the Edgbaston track batting friendly or conclude that Bangladesh's bowlers simply looked impotent, but the ease with which Virat Kohli and Co advanced into the final speaks volumes of how authoritative India's batting was on Thursday.
The target was modest, the pressure was immense. A win would've been taken for granted but a loss could result in a barrage of questions and never ending criticism. India were firm favourites but that 2015 series was being taken into consideration and Mustafizur Rahman was touted as Tigers' trump card. And why not! The Fizz had absolutely rattled the Indian batsmen, when Bangladesh had recorded a historic series win against their neighbours, and finished as the highest wicket-taker. But when Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan started doing what they do, all the zest in the Bangladesh supporters fizzled out.
It all started in the second over, when Mustafizur bowled a short and wide delivery. Dhawan judged the length very early, went on the back foot and punched the ball admirably through covers. "Beautifully timed by Shikhar Dhawan," said Ian Bishop on air. Little did he know that he and his colleagues could fall short of adjectives as the innings progressed. The bowler, however, didn't realise his mistake and produced a similar delivery on the next ball. The result was no different but this time around, Dhawan rocked back and slashed it powerfully through point. His partner, Rohit, was applauding the Delhi batsman. But how long could you possibly keep the Mumbai batsman and effortless stroke making apart?
When the 30-year old got on one knee to square drive Mustafizur, he had all the time in the world. He could go back to the dressing room, have a nap, a few knockdowns perhaps and attend a presser before returning to complete what was a sight to behold. It was a photographer’s delight, highlights editor’s headache. It felt as if he is just teasing the Fizz when he offered full face of the bat and merely pushed a fullish delivery down the ground to end the over with three boundaries accounted to his name. Although this was just the beginning of the batting exhibition to follow.
At one end Dhawan kept on frustrating the Tigers with his sheer power and at the other end Rohit’s elegance and languid display of batsmanship gave Mashrafe Mortaza and Co a hiding. They were batting so fluently that a mistimed shot would’ve been called an aberration. It took an eight over spell from the Bangladesh skipper to break the opening stand. As Dhawan took the walk back to the pavilion, Virat Kohli entered fray. To Tigers' dismay, nothing seemed to have changed. He continued from where Dhawan had left off.
The partnership between Rohit and Kohli was flourishing and that’s when Mortaza decided to reintroduce his strike bowler Mustafizur. The left arm bowler was hit for a boundary from both over and around the wicket. The fielding changes didn’t bother Kohli nor did the change of angle. As soon as Bangladesh piled up a few dot balls, the Indian batsmen responded by scoring boundaries to put the pressure back on them. There were 9 instances where India had scored 2 or more boundaries in an over. The fielders’ job was simply reduced to just hurling the throw back to the bowler after it went behind the fence.
After a certain moment of time, the contest didn’t seem to be between Indian batsmen and Bangladesh bowlers. It was among the trio of Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli itself as they strove to keep challenging each other with every stroke. The trio’s batting control was over 90%, which indicates they middled almost all of their shots. Heck, by the time Rohit edged a couple of balls later in his innings, even the white object seemed to have given up to their might and fell in no man’s land.
As soon as Kohli hit the winning runs, more than India, Bangladesh must have breathed a sigh of relief. The schooling they were receiving had come to an end. They were unlucky to come up against an inspired and a quality top order. I wonder what the total would’ve been had Kohli’s men elected to bat first.
It sounds almost comical that people have called India’s middle order their only weak link. But the truth is that they have not had adequate opportunities. "It is never a worry when the guys in the middle order are not batting. It is a worry when the middle order is batting too much too early in the tournament," remarked India captain Kohli. Against an improved Pakistan bowling attack, India would hope that these three emulate similar performances and the services of Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav won’t be needed with the bat.