India vs Bangladesh: Visitors lost match, but making the No 1 Test team sweat was their biggest win
This match was another example of the extraordinary form of captain Kohli. He made his fourth Test double hundred, and has made them in four consecutive series.
With home series against New Zealand, England and Australia scheduled to take place in quick succession, the one-off Test against Bangladesh was far from the most exciting of India's fixtures this season. Many would have expected, with some justification, that it would be a complete mismatch that would be over inside three days. This assessment ignored some of the strides that Bangladesh have made in Test cricket in recent times. They may have lost in New Zealand, but they did put on their highest total outside Asia when they made 595/8. Their home series against England saw them win a match against a top-ranked opponent for the first time in their 17-year Test history. It has taken nearly two decades, but Bangladesh are starting to become competitive.
This is still a heavy defeat, losing by 208 runs, but there is a lot for Bangladesh to take from it. They remained positive in the field even as India racked up 687/7. They then batted for 128 overs to reach 388 all out, with Mushfiqur Rahim scoring an excellent 127. India have won this match by a massive margin, but they were made to work for it. For Bangladesh to push the number one ranked Test team into the last day and make them have to fight for a win is a creditable result at this point in their development. No Test team has been competitive quickly, and Bangladesh are no different. But after years of stagnation they are finally moving in the right direction.
For India, this was yet another home victory. Since their last series defeat on home soil against England in 2012 they have played 19 Tests at home, winning 17 and drawing just two. Combined with overseas wins in Sri Lanka and the West Indies, it means India have not lost a Test series since they toured Australia in 2014-15. There are still big questions for this team to answer against strong opposition in unfriendly conditions, but in an era when winning away from from home is considered to be harder than ever, India have done as well was any other team in unfamiliar conditions since their awful showings in England in 2011 and 2014 and against Australia in 2011-12. They aren't an all-conquering force worldwide, but they are moving in the right direction.
After this long run of home Tests they will be on the road for the next 18 months, so we will see quite how far they have come since those big defeats under Mahendra Singh Dhoni. In those series India seemed to become disinterested quickly and never recover from it. It will be up to Anil Kumble as coach and Virat Kohli as captain to make sure that doesn't happen in the future.
This match was another example of the extraordinary form of captain Kohli. He made his fourth Test double hundred, and has made them in four consecutive series. He is the first batsman to achieve this feat. The most remarkable thing about this latest double ton was just how unremarkable it was. There is little peril involved in Kohli's batting these days. It would be unfair to call it uneventful, he is still playing beautiful cricket shots, but once he is set, a big score seems inevitable. He has scored 1,206 runs in this home season - yet another record. Seeing quite how far he could extend that with four matches still to play is an exciting prospect.
While Kohli has been superb, India's top order hasn't just been about him. Over these nine matches at home, eight Indian players have averaged over 50 with the bat. There have been 15 centuries and 29 fifties. There has even been a triple century; and the man who scored it got dropped.
In this match there were hundreds from Wriddhiman Saha and Murali Vijay and scores of 83 and 82 from Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane respectively. The top order is in fine fettle and will be expecting to succeed against Australia when the next Test series gets underway later this month.
The Indian bowlers persevered on this flat pitch to eventually claim the 20 Bangladesh wickets that they needed for victory. The most impressive performance with the ball for the hosts was from Umesh Yadav who bowled with pace and aggression. It was Umesh who made the first breakthrough of the Bangladesh first innings, and while he finished with middling match figures of 3/117, his performance was much impressive than that.
When India tour outside Asia they will need seam bowling resources if they are to shed themselves of the notion that they cannot win when the ball does not turn. While Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar can get the ball to swing, and Ishant Sharma's extra height can give him extra bounce, the pace that Umesh has at his disposal is a different weapon altogether. If he can combine that pace with accuracy and consistency he has the potential to be the type of bowler that India have lacked for so long.
For once it was the India seamers that were the most potent threat for much of a home match, even if the spinners ended up with more of the wickets. Success in the fourth innings for India's spinners reasserted some of their dominance in these conditions. Both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have their limitations on unhelpful surfaces; when there is any help for them in the pitch they are lethal. Over this long run of home matches Ashwin has taken 61 wickets, Jadeja has 46. Bearing in mind the complete ineptitude that Australia showed against the turning ball when they toured Sri Lanka last year, both spinners will be foaming at the mouth thinking about that series.
A win against Bangladesh isn't in itself a moment that deserves huge celebration, but wins in the last 12 months in Test series against the West Indies, Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand and Bangladesh, and a possible win against Australia, means India have become a serius force in Test cricket. Yes, most of those matches have been at home, but that does not mean this run of results is any less impressive. The nature of the wins is also worthy of praise.
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