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FATULLAH: There is something about Virat Kohli. He goes to South Africa, gets a hundred first thing upon his arrival. He steps into New Zealand, gets another hundred right away. He returns to the sub-continent, gets a challenging chase in his first game back. And what does he do? Get another hundred, of course. He adjusts from slow wickets to fast ones, and then from fast wickets to slow ones, from one country to another, one opposition to another, with no apparent change in his performances. Pace or spin, bounce or turn, in Asia or outside, Kohli is the man you want by your side in a chase.
After floundering in South Africa and New Zealand, India returned to their comfort zone – the slow, low wickets of Asia. A game with the Asia Cup hosts was just the confidence-boosting workout India needed after being routed in South Africa and New Zealand. Captain Kohli led the initiative with a near-perfect 139 while adding a match-winning 213 runs for the third wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (73), as India chase down 280 with an over to spare. It wasn’t an easy chase with the ball not coming on to the bat.
The score was set up by Mushfiqur Rahim’s excellent 117 and his 133-run stand with the wicketkeeping opener Anamul Haque, who made a stroke-filled 77 taking the attack to India’s bowlers.
Kohli came in at Shikhar Dhawan’s fall with India feeling hints of vulnerability at the start of the chase. Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain’s excellent wicket-to-wicket bowling released just 18 runs for India. Rohit Sharma freed himself by launching Mortaza down the ground for six, while Dhawan smashing the inevitable servings of short and loose ball through vacancies on the leg-side.
Just as the opening was prospering, Dhawan fell LBW to Abdur Razzak and Rohit wasted another start, playing on to Ziaur Rahman. Abdur Razzak dropped his pace a great deal, turning it both sides to pique the interest in the game. Unfortunately for Bangladesh, the occasional play-and-miss and LBW shout didn’t translate into a wicket, allowing Kohli and Rahane to run away with the game.
CAPTAIN’S KNOCK, AARON’S HORROR
Looking back at India’s bowling over the last three series, conceding 279 seemed like an improvement. Against Australia at home, India gave away an average of 329 runs every 50 overs. In South Africa, the number was 315. It marginally improved to 303 in New Zealand. Kohli got away lightly against Bangladesh. But Sri Lanka and Pakistan will offer tougher challenges.
The pitch at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium was as slow, low. There was no turn, no seam movement, just a hint of swing that occasionally caused deliveries to move sharply, but enough to significantly trouble batsmen.
Mohammad Shami (4-50) produced edges off the bat that flew through vacancies in the slips. Bangladesh could easily have been 50-5 had India grabbed those chances. Nevertheless, Shami and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar ensured a miserly start (36-1 in 10 overs) that you no longer associate with Indian bowlers. It helped that the opposition posed a lesser challenge.
While Shami took four wickets, he struggled with his knee. In between spells, he would go off, get it iced and return to bowl some more. He also collided with Ambati Rayudu as he went for the return catch off Shamsur Rahman. Moinul Haque was stumped trying to attack the first over of Ravichandran Ashwin, whose action was more Sunil Narine than Ashwin – with the overhead presentation of the ball during the run-up, the two-finger grip, some leg-spinners mixed in between the cutters.
Despite these theatrics, Anamul Haque went after Ashwin and Varun Aaron in a quick ride to fifty runs. Aaron had a terrible day. Welcomed to the crease with two boundaries, he continued to bleed runs through the day. Anamul swung him for two sixes over long-on. Mushfiqur then hit the shot of the day – an effortless pick-up over midwicket for six in an over that went for 19. Aaron followed that six with a beamer to the Bangladesh captain who took it painfully on the ribs. It was Aaron’s second waist-high full-toss of the day and he had to be taken off. Just to round off a bad day, Aaron hurt himself going for the catch that dismissed Ziaur Rahman.
Anamul slowed down after his fifty while Mushfiqur started to speed up. Their 133-run stand was full of clean hits: down the ground, through the covers, over the leg-side arc. But it constantly gave the feeling it wasn’t going to be enough.
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