No Shakib, no problem as Mushfiqur Rahim’s 60* guides Bangladesh to a seven-wicket win over India


Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim hits a six off Khaleel Ahmed during the first T20I at Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

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Shared News| Updated: November 4, 2019 8:34:11 am
Mushfiqur Rahim will never forget Bangladesh’s 2016 World T20 group encounter against India in Bengaluru. It was a match that was under his control. However, in an utterly tragicomic moment, he began to celebrate wildly even before he had hit the winning run. When he was dismissed on the final delivery of the chase, Bangladesh would go down by 1 run to India. More than three years later, Rahim is still reminded of that incident by journalists in press conferences and brutally trolled on social media for his brain-fade moment. On Sunday evening at the Feroz Shah Kotla, in the absence of their talismanic all-rounder, Rahim once again stepped up to reaffirm his status as one of Bangladesh’s finest middle-order batsmen.

A chase of 149 did not look that ominous for the visitors. But on a tacky Kotla track, India’s spinners led by Yuzvendra Chahal were quietly applying the choke. But Rahim, who walked in at No. 4, was involved in two crucial partnerships — a 60-run stand with Soumya Sarkar, followed by an unbeaten 40-run stand with captain Mahmudullah that sealed Bangladesh’s chase with three deliveries to spare. Rahim did not have any brain-fade moment tonight. He was an epitome of composure and class. In the end, his unbeaten 43-ball 60 handed Bangladesh an emphatic 7-wicket win and take a 1-0 lead in this three-match T20 series.

Unlike India, Bangladesh got the early momentum, courtesy Sarkar and Mohammad Naim’s onslaught. But a few tight overs from Chahal and Krunal Pandya stemmed their flow. After the 10th over, Bangladesh had taken their tally to 62/2. One got a sense that an all-too-familiar implosion was on the cards. Thankfully, in Sarkar and Rahim, they had two experienced batsmen at the crease. The duo had played through similar instances in the past and were determined not to fritter away this opportunity. They ran hard between the wickets and took all the scoring opportunities available. The asking rate however kept ticking over and Bangladesh required 35 runs from the final three overs. India were still the overwhelming favourites at this stage. But Rahim, in particular, never lost his cool. He slapped Chahal for a crucial boundary in the 18th over and then launched into young Khaleed Ahmed in the subsequent over — crunching four consecutive boundaries that helped his team cross the finish line.

Rahim’s exploits notwithstanding, it was a collective all-round display by Bangladesh — firstly by their bowlers to restrict India to a below-par 148/6 — secondly, vital contributions from four of their top five batsmen. “We were playing in front of a huge crowd, so that feels special. Me and Soumya had a chat, we thought maybe we could drag the game deep. Luckily we had a big over but I think Soumya played his role really well. Naim too and as did the bowlers. I am doing my level best to improve as a cricketer, and hopefully do well for Bangladesh in each and every game,” was how Rahim summed up after walking away with the Player of the Match award.

Dhawan flatters to deceive

Shikhar Dhawan loves batting in ODIs. It is a format that has not only enhanced his reputation as a stroke-maker of rare quality, but also turned him into a trusted match winner. He has the numbers to back it up — 5,518 runs at an average of 44.50 and a strike rate of 94 runs per 100 balls with 17 centuries — is a testimony to how much India rely on him at the top of the order. For a man with such an enviable record in the 50-over format, Dhawan has found it difficult to get his act together in the frenetic, high-octane T20Is. With 1,413 runs at an average of 27.70 and a strike rate of 129.87 with nine fifties, he has been fairly consistent over a prolonged period of time in this format. The issue plaguing him as an opener is his inability to propel his scoring, especially during Powerplay, which reflects in his below-par strike rate. Of late, he has found it difficult to get the timing and placement from the outset. Consequently, such sedate starts have often put pressure on batsmen at the other end. This has been the case even in ODIs. Quite often, he has been able to boost his strike-rate by spending time in the middle. T20Is and even the Indian Premier League, rarely give him that luxury.

This was the case in point at the Kotla tonight. Once Rohit Sharma departed in the opening over, the onus was on Dhawan to step up the scoring. Instead, he found the going tough against a very disciplined Bangladesh bowling attack that rarely erred either in line or length. A sustained combination of spin and seam stifled Dhawan. To be fair, the Kotla track was not quite the belter that Dhawan had expected. It was a tad slow and Bangladesh’s spinners led by leg-spinner Aminul Islam Biplob and off-spinner Afif Hossain, got the ball to turn and grip. At the end of the first six overs, India had meandered along to just 35/1, with the innings rarely finding the requisite momentum. Resultantly, Dhawan’s labour put pressure on the likes of KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer. They tried their best, but by the time they had perished at the half-way stage, Dhawan was left with the arduous task of playing the sheet anchor’s role. Unfortunately, that would not be the case though. The 33-year-old perished in the 15th over for a 42-ball-41, with India stuttering at 95/4. Had it not been for those lusty hits from all-rounders Krunal Pandya and Washington Sundar — they stacked up 30 runs in the final two overs — India were staring at the prospect of finishing at less than 130. A score of 148/6 ultimately was insufficient.

This article first appeared in the print edition on November 4, 2019 under the title ‘India vs Bangladesh: Adrenaline Mush’.