India cut Bangladesh to size

Dhoni and company prove too good for hosts in the rain-interrupted final

India cut Bangladesh to size

Bangladesh were all heart, but India were simply irrepressible. The Twenty20 format is to their immense liking; the hosts, though, are still finding their feet. The passionate home crowd lived on a prayer, India denied it with an authoritative eight-wicket victory to clinch the Asia Cup Twenty20 title at a gloomy Sher-e Bangla stadium on Sunday night.

The din, the breathless anticipation matched the occasion. Emotions ran high, and gave way to joy, anxiety, tumult, and even anger. Each move of the national team was cheered, and even contested. Any appeal by their cricketer was vociferously backed and if it didn’t go their way, it was taken to heart.  The craze here was reminiscent of India during the 80’s and 90’s when cricket would be the cathartic release against life’s ills, the simultaneous cause of joy and heartbreak.

The home crowd braved heavy rain and thundershowers and a two-hour delay to witness the contest, curtailed to 15 overs a side. The explosive innings of Mahmudullah was like a silver lining in the cloud and pushed Bangladesh to 120/5. But Shikhar Dhawan hit form on the crucial day and Virat Kohli in his trademark style successfully anchored the Indian chase.

Bangladesh bowlers bowled well at the start and Al-Amin Hossain caused frenzied celebration when Rohit Sharma edged him to be caught at slips. Dhawan had struggled with form in the tournament so far but the pitch assisted batting and he gradually bloomed. He was scratchy in the beginning but gained in confidence during his half-century knock that laid the backbone of Indian chase. It made it easier for Dhawan to have Kohli at the other end. Kohli seized the momentum early and beautifully controlled the innings. He remained unbeaten to see India’s finish with a flourish.

After a cautious beginning, the two opened up their arms and put India in a position of strength with a 94-run stand. Against India’s intrepid charge, Bangladeshi bowling fell apart and even though Taskin Ahmed got Dhawan in the 13th over, when the opener’s square drive was brilliantly caught at point by Soumya Sarkar, it proved to be to be too little, too late. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, promoting himself, gave a taste of his lusty hitting as he hit Hossain for a four and two sixes, the second one fetching India the winning runs.

Earlier, the 20-ball 45-run partnership between Rahman and Mahmudullah propped up Bangladesh. The hosts were given a good start by openers Sarkar and Tamim Iqbal before Ashish Nehra, despite being expensive, provided the breakthrough. The left-arm seamer was smoked to the fence thrice in his fifth over, and for successive boundaries by Sarkar before the seasoned Indian had the last laugh. Sarkar picked the wrong length and went for a cross-batted shot that landed straight to Hardik Pandya at mid-off.

Iqbal departed in the next over and India celebrated amidst hushed silence. Shakib Al Hasan allayed injury fears and gave the crowd its voice during his entertaining cameo but R Ashwin, who opened the bowling, stepped in to arrest the leakage. India’s top off-spinner bowled an economical spell by giving just one boundary, varying his length and cramping the batsmen. Shakib perished while trying to slog sweep him.

Bangladesh were swiftly reduced to 75/4 but Mahmudullah and Sabbir didn’t disappoint. Mahmudullah has been a reliable finisher for Bangladesh. He took charge and the complexion of the innings changed. The duo hammered Nehra for 14 runs in the 13th over before Mahmudullah singlehandedly dispatched Pandya for 21 runs. His heroics went in vain against a rampant India who have peaked in right time before the World T20 at home.

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