Asia Cup 2016: Rohit Sharma took his lifeline against Bangladesh, powering India to a near-perfect win - Firstpost
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Asia Cup 2016: Rohit Sharma took his lifeline against Bangladesh, powering India to a near-perfect win


Based on where one's allegiance lies, fans of India and Bangladesh will remember the 2015 World Cup quarter-final for different reasons. Fans of the men in blue will fondly recollect an ODI masterclass from Rohit Sharma, ably supported by Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja and a clinical bowling effort to get the opposition all-out for the seventh consecutive innings in the tournament.

Bangladesh fans, on the other hand, will remember it for one thing and one thing only -- the full-toss that had Rohit 'caught' and was wrongly ruled ‘no-ball’ by Aleem Dar.

Rohit made 47 runs off the next 25 balls he faced, en route a World Cup century.

That decision left Bangladesh fans fuming.

PTI

Rohit was doing what he does best -- get his eye in and make the start count. PTI

Back at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Dhaka for the Asia Cup T20 tournament opener, Rohit got yet another lifeline, before turning on the style to help his side to a match-winning total. He scored exactly 50 per cent of India's total of 166. And this time around, the Bangladesh Tigers have only themselves to blame.

Shakib al Hasan, Bangladesh's star all-rounder, put down a straight-forward chance at point when Rohit was batting -- grafting hard, to be precise -- on 21 off 28 balls.

Not often in cricket can you point to one moment in a match and say : 'Yes, that decided the result.' This, however, was one such incident. That over from Taskin Ahmed, the 11th of India's innings, was without doubt the turning point of the match.

India went from 52 for 3 after 10 overs to 166 for 6 in 20. Rohit scored 62 of those off 26 balls on his way to a match-winning 83 off 54 deliveries. It was as if that drop by Shakib had turned on a switch inside Rohit's head.

Off the next five balls he faced, Rohit's innings went like this: 4 (a perfectly timed square cut past third-man), 6 (a delightful lofted cut shot over point), 4 (a delicate dab to third man), 2 (a pleasing extra-cover drive), and 4 (a swivelled pull past fine leg).

He did not turn back. He was in hit-every-ball mode. And not just mindless slogs, this was Rohit at his calculating best -- picking spots around the ground, lofting it into empty spaces in the outfield, clearing fielders on the boundary rope.

Rohit was doing what he does best in limited over internationals for India -- get his eye in and make the start count.

There was one remarkable shot that stood out. The ball after he reached his 11th T20I half-century, Rohit went down on his knees rather early to a full-ball from Shakib, almost 'yorking' himself. But such was his form on the night, he dug it out from beneath his chin with very little fuss, and powered it between two deep fielders to find the square-leg fence. Pure class.

Much like he did at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last March, Rohit played an innings of calculated aggression after taking his time to settle in. The pitch in Dhaka, a green-top, was a surprise to everyone but the Indian team would have had a knowing smile on their faces, as it resembled the track in Pune for the first T20I against Sri Lanka earlier this month.

The mindless batting on that track, where MS Dhoni's team failed to re-calibrate the par score and lost wickets in heaps, must have flashed across their minds.

Well, at least on Rohit's mind. Despite Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, and Suresh Raina falling to very similar rash batting as in Pune, Rohit stood steady at one end and alongside Yuvraj Singh, arrested the early slide. The 55-run stand between the two provided India the license to go after the bowling in the final 10 overs -- a clear indication of lessons being learned from the Pune debacle.

Yuvraj might have made only 15 runs, and his form must be a concern for Dhoni, but on the night it was a crucial partnership.

A partnership that set up an explosive finale from Rohit and India's emerging T20 rockstar, Hardik Pandya. The two put on 61 runs in 27 balls, exhibiting a breathtaking array of big shots. On a pitch where 140 would have been par, India finished with 166.

"I think overall, the wicket was difficult. Once you bat 20 overs and score 160, it might look like the wicket was a little easy. But I still feel that Rohit's batting was special. We required a partnership," Dhoni said after the match.

"When Hardik went in, he started playing the big shots. At that time, Rohit made sure that he got a little more strike and he himself will be there till the end.

“He used the pace of the bowler...I feel that was the kind of batting that was really needed and because of which Hardik could also express himself. We got those extra 15-20 runs. Otherwise we thought that 140 would be a very good score," Dhoni added.

With Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah snuffing out any possibility of a fiery start from Bangladesh, India had the match in the bag, nice and early, thanks to a clinical -- and remarkably symmetrical -- bowling effort. Four of the five Indian bowlers Dhoni employed finished with figures of 23 runs in four overs. If only Ravindra Jadeja had not bowled those two wides, it would have been a perfect five.

It was, however, a near-perfect win for Dhoni to start off the Asia Cup campaign. That's now six wins in seven matches for his well-settled unit, and who better than Pakistan to test the strength of this Indian team, as the bitter rivals prepare to take the field on Saturday.

First Published On : Feb 26, 2016 10:56 IST

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