Indians check semifinal box

FETCH THAT! India’s Rohit Sharma smacks one for a six during his match-winning 104 against Bangladesh in Edgbaston on Tuesday. Reuters

Bangladesh’s wafer-thin hopes of a semifinal berth were crushed by a clinical India who bounced back in style, two days after their loss to England, to confirm their spot in the World Cup knockouts.

With one foot already in the last-four, India needed another win to be 100 percent sure of their progress beyond the league stage. The comfortable 28-run win over Bangladesh here at Edgbaston on Tuesday sealed their berth in the semifinals with a match to go against Sri Lanka. With 13 points from eight games, India are placed second behind Australia (14 points) in the table. With one match left for both teams, the race now is to finish on top of the heap.

Rohit Sharma’s century two days ago here had gone in vain, but he wasn’t to be denied his share of glory on the day. His magnificent 104 (92b, 7x4, 5x6) was the cornerstone of India’s 314 for nine after Virat Kohli chose to bat first on a flat wicket, though the odd ball kept low and spun.

Chasing wasn’t going to be easy on this surface as India had found out on Sunday with the pitch slowing and the ball gripping. India’s decision to include Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in place of Kuldeep Yadav, too worked in their favour on this deck where a majority of the slower bowlers haven’t had a good time. While some of Bangladesh batsmen did try to put up a fight, they needed much more than those sparks of brilliance.

With the irrepressible Jasprit Bumrah claiming 4/55, India kept chipping away at Bangladesh batsmen to restrict them to 286 all out in 48 overs. When Mohammad Shami leaked 35 runs (1/68) in his last three overs, Bangladesh appeared to be getting too close to the target for India’s comfort but Bumrah killed the chase with three wickets in as many overs.  

The day clearly belonged to man of the match Rohit. Batting as well as he ever has in his career, the Indian vice-captain brought up his fourth century of the World Cup, equaling Kumar Sangakkara’s record for most hundreds in a single edition. Barring a reprieve by Tamim Iqbal when on nine, Rohit’s innings was spotless, following up his 103 against England just two days ago.

Rohit’s 26th career ODI century was dotted with attractive strokes – the pulls to midwicket and the lofted drives over extra cover, the slashes and stabs, the flicks off the pads and the wild swings. None, however, was more gorgeous than the straight six off Mustafizur Rahman (5/59). He picked up the full ball early, lent forward and sent it sailing over the bowler’s head with minimal effort. That text-book follow-through and lazy elegance to be framed for ages.  

In the course of his century, he brought up the highest opening partnership with Rahul (77, 92b, 6x4, 1x6) in this World Cup – the 180-run stand off 177 balls. While the duo exploited the shorter boundary to the hilt, just like the English openers on Sunday, their scoring areas weren’t restricted to just one side of the boundary. They repeatedly peppered the longer fence as well.     

Rahul brought up his second half-century of the tournament. He was once again guilty of throwing away a chance to convert his innings into a three-figure score, departing 14 balls after Rohit had holed out cover. While India would have liked one of the set openers to bat deep, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant (48, 41b, 4x4) appeared to be allaying fears of a collapse with confident starts, neither batsman managed to build big. Pant’s dismissal at the start of the 45th over had a debilitating effect on the Indian innings.

When the openers provided the big start, a total of 350 looked a distinct possibility but Mustafizur’s repeated blows in the last stretch of the innings and a three-run final over, when Dhoni refused singles to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, ensured India finished with a much lower total.        

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