Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah was on Saturday asked about the team’s meltdowns against India, choking after coming close to winning against their huge neighbours. Mahmudullah smiled: “Yes, we do lose close games to India. But what we’ll do is not worry or think about it during the match.”
They didn’t on Sunday, to win the first T20 at the Ferozeshah Kotla. After Mushfiqur Rahim and Soumya Sarkar had added 60 off 55 balls for the third wicket and brought the equation down to 50 off five overs, India had bowled a couple of good overs to raise the required run rate to almost 12. India also had one of the three remaining overs from leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who had figures of 1/11 in three at that stage.
Perhaps not worrying about the many times they have tried to go for the jugular and fallen, Mushfiqur swatted Chahal to deep mid-wicket. The ball travelled straight into Krunal Pandya’s hands only to pop out to roll over the boundary. That was the kind of luck that has eluded them so often.
A couple and a boundary followed and Chahal had been milked for 13 in his final over; 22 from 12 wasn’t a tough ask and with the tricky bowler off their backs, four consecutive fours off Khaleel Ahmed brought them home. Mushfiqur ended with 60 off 43 balls (8×4, 1×6). He was helped by the under-pressure Soumya Sarkar, who hit 39 off 35.
The haze cleared just enough to ensure a match at the Ferozeshah Kotla, but India showed they were very much a work in progress after scoring 148/6 batting first. Bangladesh finished on 154/3 in 19.3 overs.
Bangladesh, without Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, two of their seniormost players, won by seven wickets to take the lead in the three-match series. They had endured the pollution in Delhi over the last two days, wearing masks, but they won’t remember this ground for anything other than this win.
However, they have to thank the bowlers for restricting India.
Ahead of the game, stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma was asked if he fancied a double century in T20 Internationals, having hit that twice in ODIs and once in Tests. A look of incredulity on his face was the response. The same expression reappeared after being given leg before to a sharp, in-coming delivery from Shafiul Islam.
It rocked the boat and India, already shaky in the middle-order and finishing, kept losing wickets, and despite a 10-ball 28-run partnership in the end between Krunal Pandya and Washington Sundar, fell short of a healthy total.
After holding India to 35/1 in the powerplay, Bangladesh removed KL Rahul. It was a spongy wicket where the ball stopped and came and Rahul’s shot went straight to cover.
Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer tried to resurrect and up the tempo. Iyer, who had clobbered two sixes on way to 22, holed out to long-off against spinner Aminul Islam, who had scalped Rahul.
Regular spinners, Islam and Afif Hossain shared six overs, picking three crucial wickets for 33 runs.
Liton Das was out early but Sarkar and Mohammad Naim helped Bangladesh reach 45/1 in the sixth over. Sundar went for 13 runs in the sixth over.
Chahal was thrown in the middle and as he has done so often got a wicket. He removed Naim and tightened the scoring.
Sundar, despite that expensive over, bowled well to keep Sarkar and Mushfiqur in check. Pandya was a bit more expensive, going at eight runs an over.
Both the Bangladesh batsmen batted calmly, milking runs and managing to keep the target within reach. It was 50 off the last five overs. However, Pandya’s last over was good and pacer Khaleel Ahmed in the very next over got rid of Sarkar, and with one over from trumpcard Chahal and 35 to get from 18, it looked as if Bangladesh would choke again as they do against India.
But fortune often favours the brave. There is a thin line between being brave and being reckless. Bangladesh, on certain previous occasions, have been foolhardy, throwing it away with a reckless approach. But on Sunday, they plotted their chase to a nicety.