A good bowling display to restrict Bangladesh to 264-7, followed by some magnificent batting, saw India cruise into the final of the ICC Champions Trophy where they will face Pakistan.
Here’s what we learned from the match.
Much has been written about the Indians having a strong batting line-up but what has been refreshing is the discipline that they have shown in building the innings. Openers Dhawan and Rohit, along with Kohli, have been doing it so well that they have ended up scoring the bulk of the runs for the team in their run to the final.
Right from the opening match against Pakistan until the semi-final against Bangladesh, the top three batsmen have cut out the frills early in their innings and given more importance to stability. It paid rich dividends in the first game when both Dhawan and Rohit, returning to the team on the back of poor form and fitness, did not play a false shot for the most part of their innings and went on to get some much-needed runs under their belt.
Kohli struggled initially against Pakistan and South Africa but he overcame his weakness to deliveries outside the off-stump early in the innings by logging scores of 81 not out and 76 not out respectively.
The placid pitches have been an able ally as fast bowlers have found it difficult to hit the right length in the absence of swing. Since they are very good players of spin bowling, dealing with the spinners has also not been much of a problem.
So, Kohli and co. have made the most out of the conditions in England with some self-restraint and it has yielded fantastic results.
The Bangladesh batsmen had done a decent job to put 264 runs on the board and the onus was on their bowlers to test the high-profile Indian batting. But on an Edgbaston pitch ideal for batting, the Bangladesh bowlers fared poorly – allowing the Indians to run away with the game.
The way Bangladesh bowled, they would not have been able to defend even 364. Barring Mortaza and to a certain extent left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan, none of the bowlers caused any concern for the Indians.
They did not do anything out of the ordinary to stop the rampage unleashed by Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli.
Young Mustafizur Rahman was the biggest disappointment as the left-arm pacer was expected to cause trouble with his off-cutters and slower deliveries. But he fared the worst, conceding the maximum boundaries (nine fours and one six) and runs (53) from six overs.
Mortaza hit the right lines and returned the most economical bowling figures but his tactical moves made no impact on the Indians. The Bangladesh captain’s decision to bowl eight overs on the trot was also puzzling as it meant that he did not trust the rest of the pace pack at the start.
It was Bangladesh’s best chance to come up with a fighting display against a strong Indian team and also to justify their march into the semi-finals, which had come on the back of just one victory. But they made a mess of it and surrendered meekly.
Ravichandran Ashwin looked off-colour as he was the second-most expensive Indian bowler on Thursday.
Playing his first match in the tournament against South Africa, the 30-year-old appeared to have adapted quickly to the pitches in England after he was excluded from India’s playing eleven in the first two matches. In that game, he bowled nine overs for 43 runs and took the important wicket of Hashim Amla. He varied his speed well and bowled a lot of slower deliveries keeping in mind the placid nature of the pitch.
However, against Bangladesh on a similar surface, he bowled a lot quicker and there were too many loose balls. No wonder that he was punished forcing captain Virat Kohli to fall back upon Kedar Jadhav.
Surprisingly, Jadhav who bowls off-spin with a sling-arm action proved to be a much more effective option than Ashwin. What Jadhav did was bowl a lot slower and the Bangladesh batsmen tried hard to score off him but the slowness of his deliveries not only denied them runs but also forced them to commit mistakes.
It was all evident in Mushfiqur Rahim’s dismissal as the wicketkeeper-batsman who was going strong on 61 drilled a full toss from Jadhav straight into the hands of Kohli at mid-wicket.
Jadhav went on to log the match’s best bowling figures of 6-0-22-2 and more importantly has given Kohli a much-needed bowling option.
India’s plan of going in with just five bowlers came apart against Sri Lanka and it almost went the same route against Bangladesh.
While Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya were clobbered by the Sri Lankan batsmen, it was the turn of Ashwin to be on the receiving end in the semi-final.
Jadeja managed to bounce back with a much better showing following his poor show (6-0-52-0) in India’s surprising defeat at the hands of Angelo Mathews and co., but Pandya has struggled to find his mojo with the ball.
The Gujarat all-rounder who bowled seven overs for 51 runs against Sri Lanka, was the most expensive Indian bowler (10-0-52-1) in the next game against South Africa but fared his worst against Bangladesh where his four overs went for 34 runs (he did get Tamim Iqbal bowled off a no-ball and had a catch dropped off his bowling). With Ashwin too proving a tad expensive (10-0-54-0), Kohli had to fall back on the off-spin of Kedar Jadhav.
Luckily for Kohli and India, Jadhav proved successful but to rely on the Pune batsman every time to bail the side out is expecting too much. Jadhav can at best be a stop-gap arrangement but if Kohli is keen to throw the ball to him for a few overs then it is better to have a regular bowler in place of Pandya as the Indian skipper will have better options.
Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim were taking a toll on the Indian bowling with their 123-run partnership. But more worrying for the Indians was the run-rate which was nearing six an over as Bangladesh were 150-plus for the loss of two wickets in the 27th over. Besides, the batsmen in the middle were Bangladesh’s most experienced and in-form.
Indian captain Virat Kohli brought Kedar Jadhav into the attack in the hope that the part-time off-spinner would slow down the pace of run-making. But Jadhav ended up pulling out a rabbit out of his hat by dismissing both Tamim and Mushfiqur.
The double blow pegged back Bangladesh so badly that they failed to recover from it and had to be content with a sub-300 total, which was far less than what they would have expected when the two Bangladeshis were going well.
Hardik Pandya was introduced into the bowling attack in the 13th over with Bangladesh labouring for runs. The Indian all-rounder was expected to maintain the tempo but he was all over the place. His second ball was a no-ball and Tamim offered up a catch off the subsequent free-hit.
But it was the second no-ball, off the fifth delivery of the same over that hurt India the most. Tamim, who was struggling to get going, was bowled off an inside edge.
In the resulting free-hit, the Bangladesh batsman smashed a boundary to the fence. It released the pressure as Pandya ended up conceding 14 runs in that over and Tamim was back in his elements.
Until the semi-final, Sabbir Rahman had not done anything significant in the tournament to attract attention. So when he took on the Indian bowlers smashing fours at will, it appeared Bangladesh had come out with a plan against their famed rivals. That too, even after Bangladesh had lost opener Soumya Sarkar in the first over.
With all the focus on the prolific Tamim Iqbal, it seemed that Sabbir had slipped under the radar – cracking four fours to race to 19 off 13 balls. But that was when Indian pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah rose to the occasion – bowling 13 dot balls in a row.
Bhuvneshwar then landed the sucker punch with a slower ball wide outside the off-stump and Sabbir, who had been denied runs, fell for it by hitting the ball straight into point fielder Ravindra Jadeja’s hands.
The 2017 Champions Trophy will not be remembered as a tournament where teams wanted to bat first after winning the toss. This has been mainly because of the lack of swing, or rain and D/L consideration at times, but mostly it was about the flat tracks laid out for batsmen to make merry on. On only four out of 14 occasions until the second semi-final between India and Bangladesh here at Edgbaston, a team winning the toss opted to bat first.
It was no surprise then when Virat Kohli won the toss and opted to field too. His counterpart Mashrafe Mortaza talked about bowling first, had he been lucky enough to make that decision. A team like Bangladesh, though, cannot rely simply on luck, especially on a stage like this. Simply put, this was the biggest day in their ODI cricket history – the semi-final of an ICC tournament – and they needed to be brave against a behemoth of an opposition.
To their credit, Bangladesh were brave, at least for the first 30 overs. Despite losing two early wickets, they attacked the Indian bowling. Tamim Iqbal (70) and Mushfiqur Rahim (61) borrowed a leaf from Sri Lanka’s book as they went after India’s fifth bowler Hardik Pandya (0-34 in four overs). When Kohli countered by bringing on Ravi Ashwin (0-54) and Ravindra Jadeja (1-48), they attacked the spinners too. Both of them were going at six an over before the third wicket fell.
At that point in time – 154-2 after 27.5 overs – the Tigers were cruising and a 300-plus chase was looking very likely for India. It could have been 320-plus even, had the duo continued their 123-run partnership. Here, at this juncture, let us pause and take stock. It cannot be denied that India were desperate for a wicket. The fifth bowler’s spell is the one weakness in their armour. And like Lanka, Bangladesh were exploiting it very well.
The trick, however, is to do it with intelligence. That’s the difference between the Sri Lankans and Bangladesh. The former did it for the entirety of the innings with an audacity that belied their young team’s inexperience. The latter fizzled out midway through their innings in this semi-final. Here, it is important to point out that Bangladesh are no longer an inexperienced side.
This was Iqbal’s 173rd ODI, and 176th for Rahim. One of them has even led their side in this format. When Kedar Jadhav (2-22 in six overs) was introduced at that stage, the need of the hour then was to play the part-timer with guile and just see out his overs, milking him for runs like they had done against Ashwin and Jadeja. Instead, the duo – tempted by his pie-chucking deliveries – went all out against Jadhav, and it turned the game upside down.
“Wickets were honestly a bonus. Hardik went for a few in his first three, so we wanted to give him a bit of a break and cover up overs through Kedar. We knew that he had the ability to get in two or three dot balls every over. But it ended up changing the whole game for us,” said Kohli about the ploy to bring in a part-timer.
There is no denying Bangladesh’s growing stature in world cricket, standing up to the big boys in limited-overs’ cricket even if there is a disparity in Tests still. However, this was a rookie mistake, plain and simple. They were already on top, and had no need to push on the accelerator at that stage of the game. In a parallel universe, Bangladesh would have two centurions in Iqbal and Rahim today, and India would be making heavy weather of a 320-plus chase to reach the final.
Instead, the Men in Blue were presented with an easy foot in the door and they barged in with full force. This is the thing about mature and responsible teams – they grasp every half opportunity presented to them. Bangladesh are yet to bridge this gap, for all their success on the international stage in recent times, and this is where they fell short to India.
It is underlined by the ease with which India’s bowlers put the brakes on their lower order’s scoring, squeezing them into surrender. Then, with a flat track laid out for India’s top order, it was almost a net session. Shikhar Dhawan pulled and cut with aplomb, Rohit Sharma notched up a hundred that was there for the taking, and Kohli strolled his way to becoming the quickest batsman to 8000 ODI runs.
As such, Bangladesh handed an easy ticket to India for a repeat big-clash against Pakistan on Sunday, with the tournament sponsors and broadcasters laughing their way to the bank. At some point in the future, or indeed in the next ICC-tournament semi-final they play, the Tigers will perhaps make it tougher for the opposition, and take the opportunity to be braver, smarter and qualify themselves.