ROHIT MAHAJAN IN BIRMINGHAMIndia thrash listless Tigers by nine wickets to set up a dream final against the arch-rivals
“Are you watching, Pakistan?” sang the Indian fans in the stands of the Edgbaston cricket ground as, with power and precision, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and India crushed Bangladesh in the second semifinal of the Champions Trophy.
Rohit’s 123 — after 91, 78 and 12 in the group stage — powered India to a crushing defeat over Bangladesh who, it must be said, were completely outclassed as India chased down 265 with nearly 10 overs to spare, to set up a dream final with Pakistan.
At no stage did it appear that Bangladesh might have the shadow of a chance to win the biggest match of their lives.
Shikhar Dhawan had got the chase on track with powerful strikes through cover off Mustafizur Rahman. Rahman and Mashrafe Mortaza gave the openers width, and Rohit joined the fun. Off they went on a bright, beautiful day and the target seemed smaller with each stroke. Rohit and Dhawan added 87 off 88 balls for the first wicket before Dhawan threw his wicket away.
Bangladesh sighed at the sight of Virat Kohli coming in: The flat wicket, the modest target and perfect conditions for batting — the omens were bad.
Kohli began slowly, his first four coming only off the 15th ball, but then he caught fire — from 15 off 18, he rushed to 32 off 24 with some beautiful driving through off. Rohit was untroubled at the other end, and nothing went wrong for India. A half-hearted attempt for a close run by Rohit was halted in time, and when he hit the ball in the air well inside the field, off Shakib in the 28th over, it fell safely between two fielders.
Bangladesh began to seem disheartened, their bowlers tired and unwilling. Rohit and Kohli began to attack with greater gusto. And before you could say “India vs Pakistan”, Kohli hit a drive through off that won India the game.
Bangladesh were very conscious of the fact that they needed to put at least 325 on the board. They ended up with a total that was definitely below-par. Bangladesh attacked from the start. Sixth ball of the first over, Soumya Sarkar drove away from his body and inside-edged it to his stumps. No. 3 Sabbir Rahman came out brandishing his licence to attack.
Rahman likes to attack and scores at an impressive rate of nearly 94 runs every 100 balls (the figure for Kohli is 90.75, and 84.38 for Rohit). Today, Rahman was told to attack from Ball 1 — and he did just that, driving the first ball he faced, from Jasprit Bumrah, through point for four.
Next over, Rahman sprang down the wicket and hit another four through the off-side, and did the same to Bumrah in the following over. He’d raced to 19 off 13, with four fours, and India needed to contain him. This they did by directing the short ball towards his face, and that pushed him back into the crease.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar first brandished the stick — two bouncers in four balls — and then dangled the carrot in the seventh over: The fifth ball was slow and short, Rahman’s eyes lit up and he smacked it to Ravindra Jadeja at point. For Rahman, the pressure was bearable after 13 dot balls in a row — this led to anxiety, a risky shot, and dismissal. Two down for 31 in 6.5 overs.
Mushfiqur Rahim came in and started with a Rahman-like urgency — the responsibility of the attack was on his shoulders now. He struck three fours off three balls from Bhuvneshwar and got the partnership with Iqbal off.
Ten years ago, these two had knocked India out of the World Cup with 50s in Port of Spain, adding 45 quick runs for the second wicket. Today they added 123 top-class runs, in 21.1 overs, at 5.81 runs an over.
The two, 347 ODIs between them, began to create runs rather than grabbing them helter-skelter. Iqbal, bowled off a no-ball from Hardik Pandya when on 12 off 38 balls, raised his game as Rahim began to lash the ball through the field. The first three fours of the partnership were struck by Rahim, the next three by Iqbal. They unsettled the spinners by reverse-sweeping, or lofting the ball over the field.
Dramatically, the two early wickets were forgotten, and the Bangla fans in the stands found their voice. At 154/2 in the 28th over, Bangladesh looked set to get 300-plus, the bare minimum required to challenge India.
Pandya’s first three overs cost 28, and that forced Kohli to bring on Kedar Jadhav with his allegedly harmless off-spin. Jadhav got both Iqbal and Rahim after another round of dot balls — a run of 31 runs off 35 balls, without a four, forced Iqbal to slog and get bowled. Then 23 runs off 37 balls caused Shakib Al Hasan to hit a loose shot against Jadeja — gone for 15 off 23. Rahim fell in the next over, and Bangladesh’s dream of a 320-plus total, and dreams of winning the biggest match of their lives, vanished.
- 766 Number of runs the Dhawan-Rohit pair has scored, making them most successful in the Champions Trophy history. In nine innings, they’ve scored 766 runs at an average of 85.11 with four century and three half-century stands.
- 666 Runs Shikhar Dhawan has scored in Champions Trophy. It’s the highest by an Indian, surpassing Sourav Ganguly’s 665 runs
- 4 Number of times India have reached the Champions Trophy final, the most by any side.
“Another complete game. We needed to have a clean, collective game. We didn’t expect to win by nine wickets, but that’s the quality of our top-order.” — Virat Kohli
“We have repeated these mistakes often in big matches. This was a match where we should have scored 330 but ended up scoring 264. We need to get mentally tough in these situations and when we come back next time, may be correct mistakes.” — Mashrafe Mortaza