Sports desk, September 29: From 120 for 0, they fell to 222 all out, wondering what if for part of the night and what the hell for the rest of it. Bangladesh were winning the Asia Cup… until Kedar Jadhav snatched it away from them… with his part-time offspin. what… the… hell… The pain must cut all the more deeper because they were exceptional with the ball, taking a game that had no business going down the wire all the way to the very last ball.
Now there is no magic to defending low totals. It’s all about discipline. Mashrafe Mortaza and his boys understood that and simply began targeting the stumps. It was a brilliant move and with the field up – six, sometimes, seven men were saving singles all through the middle overs – the Indian dressing room started to panic.
It all reached a crescendo around the 37th over. MS Dhoni was gone. Rohit Sharma was gone. Shikhar Dhawan was long gone. Jadhav was at the crease, but he was having a lot of trouble with his right hamstring, unable to hit the ball, or get off strike.
The team management had a decision to make – keep the last specialist batsman out there even though he was struggling or bring him back and expose the tail. After initially asking Jadhav to stay calm and bat on, Rohit ended up calling him back. The equation read 56 runs to get off 72 balls.
Ravindra Jadeja knows these situations all too well – and not always for the fondest reasons. However, in this Asia Cup, he has shown that he does have the skill to handle such high-pressure situations, carefully taking India to within 11 runs of the title. But Bangladesh dug deep again and Rubel Hossain found the left-hander’s edge. The 28-year old fast bowler was the heartbeat to an unbelievable comeback. His ten-over spell included 46 dots and two crucial wickets.
There was one last twist in the tale, and at the centre of it was, again, Jadhav. He walked back to the crease in the 48th over and with unreal calm got the rest of the runs in singles. Speaking to the broadcasters after his 23 off 27 balls, he suspected he might have a grade 1 or 2 hamstring tear, but did so with a big smile on his face. He had won the cup for India. Everything else took a back seat.
Including Liton Das. He had made his maiden ODI century, a splendid innings not only for the quality of his strokeplay but also the calculation behind it. He attacked Jasprit Bumrah, stepping out against the fast bowler; not many batsmen try that, no one did in this tournament anyway. He kept sweeping Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja. Spinners hate that shot because it turns a flighted ball outside off stump into boundary-scoring opportunity.
He got to his fifty in 33 deliveries and then converted it to a hundred by the 29th over. Everything was going to plan – and a funky one at that considering Bangladesh had promoted Mehidy Hasan to open the batting for the first time in any form of cricket – first-class, List A or T20s – and came away with their best partnership for the first wicket in 27 ODIs.
It is usually at this point that India turn to Jadhav. Hopeless situations are the welcome mat for him. Doing nothing more than bowling straight, he gave India the control they were so desperately searching – and as a bonus took a couple of wickets as well. Mehidy was caught at cover point, trying to force the pace and the mistake consumed Mushfiqur Rahim as well. For a clearer picture of Jadhav’s impact: Bangladesh were 116 for 0 in 20 overs.
He came on. Bangladesh slumped to 62 for 5 in the next 20 overs. On a slow pitch, his non-turning, barely bouncing offbreaks are really hard to get away.
Having clawed their way back, India began asserting themselves in the final stages of the innings. It didn’t matter that a centurion was still in the middle. They simply kept him off strike by turning the screws at the other end. Soumya Sarkar felt it the greatest. For the first five overs that he was in the middle, Liton could face only nine balls. Kuldeep eventually got rid of the danger man with a beautiful googly and India’s spinners seemed to have set the course for another straightforward victory. Turns out, such things are becoming rarer each time they play Bangladesh.
It could all have been a lot easier if India’s middle order had a more solid look to it. But Ambati Rayudu was caught behind for 2, closing the face against a Mashrafe delivery that held its line. Dinesh Karthik was lbw to a full toss after putting on a half-century partnership for the fourth wicket. Even MS Dhoni fell to Mustafizur at a time when his presence at the crease seemed beyond vital. The No. 4 debate rages on and for some reason KL Rahul just doesn’t feature in it.
Bangladesh’s middle order fared quite poorly as well, contributing four of the eight single-digit scores in the innings, and that really was where the game was lost.