Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bangladesh v India, Super Four, Asia Cup, Karachi

India 284 for 3 (Raina 116*, Gambhir 90) beat

Bangladesh 283 for 6 (Kapali 115, Tamim 55) by seven wickets

Alok Kapali's dazzling 115 gave Bangladesh a fighting chance, but their inability to hold on to catches meant that India breezed past another stiff target at the National Stadium in Karachi. Two days after making mincemeat of 300 against Pakistan, they overhauled Bangladesh's 283 with 40 balls to spare. Suresh Raina, with a century against Hong Kong and 84 against Pakistan earlier in the tournament, stroked a magnificent unbeaten 116, adding 139 for the third wicket with Gautam Gambhir to set up the game for India. Gambhir's 90 spanned just 84 balls, and there was enough time for Yuvraj Singh to thrash a couple of mighty sixes before the curtain came down.

Shahadat Hossain, all lively pace and whole-hearted grunting, had hinted at an upset with two wickets in the first Powerplay, but the partnership between Raina and Gambhir upset Mohammad Ashraful's best-laid plans. Butter fingers didn't help.

Gambhir had made 56 when his attempt to muscle Mashrafe Mortaza over the infield was sliced up in the air towards point. Farhad Reza made a mess of the catch. Soon after, still in the final Powerplay, Raina experienced his own adrenaline-rush moment, top-edging a pull. But again, Mortaza's celebrations were aborted as Mahmudullah spilt the chance at fine leg. Raina had made just 16.

Bangladesh had started well enough, with Robin Uthappa inside-edging a full delivery onto his stumps. That brought in Rohit Sharma, another batsman whose fortunes have waned in recent times. With Bangladesh especially generous with overthrows, India didn't need to take undue risks, and Rohit soon got going with an imperious pull and a cover drive for fours.

With Gambhir cutting and pulling anything that was slightly off target, the 50 came quickly enough, but soon after Rohit flicked Shahadat straight to midwicket. Raina was content to rotate the strike early on, and Gambhir quickly got to his half-century with a four and six off Mahmudullah. Then came the bloopers, and that was effectively that.

Slipshod fielding had played its part in Bangladesh's surge to 283 as well. Kapali had made just 25 when Manpreet Gony misjudged a catch at long-on off the bowling of Yusuf Pathan. Gambhir gave him another reprieve late on, but by then he had roared into three figures.

The innings exploded into life in the final eight overs, when 90 runs were amassed as Kapali cut loose with a ferocity that brooked no answer from the Indians. Mahmudullah turned over the strike at the other end, contributing only 24 to the 112-run partnership as Kapali struck the ball with power and precision.

Pragyan Ojha had bowled a tidy spell and taken two wickets on debut, Yusuf had given little away, and Ishant Sharma had kept things quiet when called upon. But when Yusuf came on to bowl his final over, Kapali, then on 47 from 64 balls, exploded into life. Two big slog-sweeps for six set the tone, and when RP Singh returned, both batsmen scythed him over backward point for fours.

Gony, whose second international outing was a great deal more taxing than the first against Hong Kong, then went for 4,6 and 6 as Kapali started to swing with genuine confidence. Mahendra Singh Dhoni once again turned to Ishant to apply a tourniquet, but to no avail. Kapali clipped a slow yorker beautifully through midwicket and then carved one past point as 61 came in just five overs. Of that, 50 had come off Kapali's bat.

Bangladesh had started sedately, but when Nazimuddin cut RP straight to third man, Mohammad Ashraful arrived to up the ante. With Gony straying on to the pads once too often, the runs came quickly. With Tamim Iqbal driving the ball fluently and Ashraful utilising both power and touch, the run rate soared to six.

Unfortunately for Bangladesh, Ashraful's profligate streak came to the fore just when his team were on top. Gony had been brought back for a second spell, and a half-hearted drive on the up went to Ojha at mid-off. A first international wicket for Gony, and a first catch for Ojha.

Raqibul Hasan and Tamim continued to pick up runs at a fair clip, and Dhoni threw Ojha the ball in the 17th over. He started tidily enough, giving little away, and was unlucky as a thick outside edge that took Tamim past 50 just evaded the man at slip.

Yet again though, a moment's carelessness cost Bangladesh dearly. Having creamed Ishant through the covers for four, Tamim then tried to deflect one fine off the pads. Too fine as it turned out, with Dhoni making good ground to his right to take a splendid catch. The second and third Powerplays had fetched just 42, and Bangladesh had to do it all over again.

Raqibul expressed the desire to push on with a big heave over long-off against Ojha, but was flummoxed soon after, as Ojha came up with a beautiful delivery that turned past the defensive prod to take off stump. Mushfiqur Rahim and Kapali consolidated with a 49-run partnership, but India's bowlers, with Ojha varying his flight cleverly, were slowly establishing a stranglehold.

Ojha's second wicket came courtesy a little extra bounce, with Mushfiqur's attempt at a cut finding only Dhoni's gloves, but the scent of a quick kill turned into a bloody nose as Kapali blazed away like a Catherine Wheel. Had Bangladesh taken their catches, there might have been even more fireworks to illuminate the Dhaka night. Raina and Gambhir certainly weren't anything like as generous.

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