T20 Cricket: Awesome India surge to sixth Asia Cup title triumph


March 6, 2016

Brief Scorecard: India 122 for 2 (Dhawan 60, Kohli 41*) beat Bangladesh 120 for 5 (Mahmudullah 33*, Bumrah 1-13) by eight wickets

MS Dhoni hugs Virat Kohli after sealing India's victory – AFP

March 6, 2016

Brief Scorecard: India 122 for 2 (Dhawan 60, Kohli 41*) beat Bangladesh 120 for 5 (Mahmudullah 33*, Bumrah 1-13) by eight wickets

MS Dhoni hugs Virat Kohli after sealing India's victory – AFP

Shikhar Dhawan finally ran into good run-scoring touch, Virat Kohli played his role to perfection, and MS Dhoni finished things off in style as India, after a competent bowling performance led by Jasprit Bumrah, ensured that the Asia Cup 2016 final went their way with greater all-round ability.

It was India’s sixth Asia Cup crown, and the second time the team had won the title with Dhoni at the helm.

Asked to bat at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on Sunday (March 6) in a match reduced to 15 overs a side due to rain, Bangladesh ended on 120 for 5. It got tense, but after Dhawan and Kohli had done all the hard work, Dhoni blitzed 20 from six balls with two sixes and a four, all very muscular, to take India to 122 to 2 with seven balls in hand for an eight-wicket win. Dhawan scored 60 in 44 balls with nine fours and a six, and Kohli ended unbeaten on a 28-ball 41 with five fours.

A thunderstorm threatened to wash out the final but the incredible drainage facility at the stadium ensured that a match of decent length was possible. The enthusiastic, noisy and spirited crowd braved it all to fill the stands, but it ended in a huge, noiseless disappointment for them.

Twenty20 is a funny game in which one over, or even just three or four balls, can make a difference to the eventual outcome.

It was one such two-over period – the fifth and sixth of the Indian innings – when Kohli and Dhawan added 29 runs. From 19 for 1, India had reached 48 for 1; the pressure was off, and the game had swung, decisively, as it turned out.

Interestingly, instead of Kohli who one would expect to take the lead in a chase in a big match, it was Dhawan doing most of the scoring. He hit four of the six fours in that period, two streaky ones off Abu Hider Rony, the young left-arm paceman, and then a late cut and a savage pull off Shakib Al Hasan, who bowled a poor over with two long hops. Kohli smashed the other Shakib long hop to the fence as well.

That phase of play seemed to switch something on in Dhawan, who had been so very iffy in the tournament before this match, and had lost Rohit Sharma edging Al-Amin Hossain in the second over of the innings. The running between the two Delhi boys was fantastic, and they found a boundary each time they needed one, neither pace nor spin making a dent.

The run rate still found a way to cross nine per over, but that’s when the duo really upped the tempo. But when Dhawan fell guiding a Taskin Ahmed full toss to a diving Soumya Sarkar at point after a 94-run second-wicket stand, the match was still in the balance. Not after Dhoni had a say in the matter, though.

In the first half of the match, it was the penultimate over that changed the flow of the game, Mahmudullah loving it as Hardik Pandya put them in his hitting zone. Mahmudullah hit the first, a full toss, over cover for four, hoicked the next over midwicket for six and then, a ball later, swung one off the length over long-on for six more – 21 runs came in that over.

That helped Mahmudullah end on a remarkable 33 not out from 13 balls and took Bangladesh from a middling total to a competitive one, while Sabbir Rahman was the other man to leave a mark with the bat. The dasher never quite got going the way one expects him to, but did the important job of batting through the innings, finishing with 32 not out in 29 balls, with just two fours.

He came in at the end of the fourth over when Sarkar fell for a nine-ball 14, a ball after back-to-back fours off Ashish Nehra. The first one was hit brutally down the ground, almost knocking Tamim Iqbal out, while the second was swung over the short fine-leg fielder.

Tamim fell soon after, and Sabbir turned the strike around as Shakib, passed fit following a training injury on Friday, got going. He had had a quiet Asia Cup but on this, the big day, Shakib raised the pitch with strokes powerful and delicate, scoring 21 from 16 balls before he top-edged a sweep off R Ashwin to Bumrah at short fine-leg.

Mushfiqur Rahim was then run out, and, surprisingly, Mashrafe Mortaza came in ahead of Mahmudullah.

It was probably not a sensible call, Mortaza just backing his muscles over Mahmudullah’s class. Fortunately for Bangladesh, it didn’t matter much, as Mortaza was out caught at cow corner first ball.

But as far as important overs are concerned, Bumrah did everything expected of him and more, turning in three such overs. His first, the third of the innings, went for three runs as he moved the ball around, touched the 140-kph mark, and got bounce. Only three runs came off his next over as well. And then, bowling the last over, Bumrah speared them in, cramping the batsmen for room, and sent in one perfect surprise bouncer while giving away just seven runs.

Nehra and Pandya were expensive, Ashwin was economical – 1 for 14 – after bowling the first over of the innings and finishing up by the 11th over. Ravindra Jadeja did his bit too, with 1 for 25 but Bumrah stood head and shoulders above all of them.

In the end, that made a bigger difference than Mahmudullah’s heroics.

Irrespective of the result, the champions of the night were the ground and the ground staff that look after it. There was 80 minutes of rain – torrential at times – but within an hour and a half of the last bit of significant rain, the ground was ready for action. The fabled drainage at the Sher-e-Bangla is no myth.

Courtesy: Wisden India


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