15-Sep-2023 • 13 hrs ago
WATCH – Highlights of Gill’s sublime century
Bangladesh 265 for 8 (Shakib 80, Hridoy 54, Thakur 3-65) beat India 259 all out (Gill 121, Axar 42, Mustafizur 3-50) by six runs
The much-maligned Asia Cup has produced yet another thriller. For once, Bangladesh put one past India in a close finish, a canny defence of 265 despite a superlative Shubman Gill century.
They might have been knocked out of the Asia Cup already, but Bangladesh displayed the depth of talent in the country as a new-look side with five changes kept the finalists and also World Cup favourites, India, down. Colombo provided a track that assisted their spinners, but the turnaround was fashioned by Shakib Al Hasan’s repair work with the bat and then fast bowler Tanzim Hasan Sakib’s sensational debut with the ball.
India, too, made five changes, giving chances to those who haven’t played in the tournament. They kept ticking boxes – Mohammed Shami showed he was ready for the World Cup, Gill ended a six-month century drought in international cricket, Axar Patel came good with the bat – but in the absence of Kuldeep Yadav, India’s bowling struggled against left-hand batters.
Between them, Shakib and Nasum Ahmed scored 124 runs off 130 deliveries after Bangladesh had been 59 for 4 at one stage. The two India left-arm spinners conceded 70 runs off 60 balls to the Bangladesh left-hand batters whereas the Bangladesh offspinners went for 57 off 57 against India’s right-hand batters and took out two of their best, including Gill in the death overs.
It could have been worse than just 59 for 4 for Bangladesh, but India missed four catching opportunities. Two of those were Shakib and Towhid Hridoy when they were new at the wicket. Until then Shami, Shardul Thakur and Prasidh Krishna had kept them on a tight leash.
India will be disappointed that the spinners let Bangladesh back into the contest when the ball was gripping the surface. Shakib, who had presented the odd chance early as he tried to counterattack, went through his gears like an expert: slow recovery followed by easy singles and then three sixes off left-arm spinners.
Hridoy continued his impressive tournament with a half-century that wasn’t as rapid as Shakib’s but was clever in its targeting of the bowlers, hitting two sixes off debutant Tilak Varma.
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Thakur came back to get rid of Shakib with a played-on dismissal, Ravindra Jadeja followed it up with his 200th ODI wicket, but Bangladesh again came back from 161 for 6 in the 35th over to not only play out all the overs but also manage 93 in the last 12.
The most refreshing aspect of the win perhaps was that despite missing a whole pace attack, Bangladesh unleashed another impressive fast bowler. With a whippy Mashrafe Mortaza-like action, Tanzim made life difficult for India’s top order as the pitch began to misbehave more under the lights. He managed to extract both seam movement and uneven bounce out of the surface, in the process taking out Rohit Sharma for a duck and bowling out Tilak when he shouldered arms.
Shakib didn’t over-attack, instead trusting his spinners to tie the batters down for long enough to draw errors. India had two in-form right-hand batters at the crease when he not only introduced but trusted the offspin of Mahedi Hasan. Mahedi conceded just three runs off his two overs, and KL Rahul, 19 off 38, decided to take a risk, only finding midwicket because he got too close to the pitch of the ball.
Ishan Kishan never looked comfortable and tried to reverse his way out of trouble only for Mehidy Hasan to trap him lbw for 5 off 15. Although Suryakumar Yadav scored what looks like a decent 26 off 34, his lack of safe options to keep turning the strike over against spin showed. He managed only two singles down the ground, and relied on the risky sweep shot. He kept getting away until Shakib knocked back his off stump.
Gill, on the other hand, batted like a dream. That even he had to at times keep patting offspinners back showed how difficult the pitch was and how good the bowling was. Still, he managed to punish errors in length by going deep in the crease, and also hit five sixes by skipping down the pitch. His first century in a chase was also the most difficult of his five in a young career.
However, Gill didn’t quite get the support from the other end. Ravindra Jadeja was working singles easily in his brief innings, but when the returning wizard Mustafizur Rahman bowled two dots at him in the 38th over, Jadeja had an uncharacteristic heave and was bowled.
Now needing 96 off 74, Gill and Axar put together a counterattacking partnership, adding 39 in six overs, but Gill was done in by a brave bit of bowling from Mahedi. First of all it is brave enough to be bowling offspin to a right-hand batter – that too Gill – in the death overs, but on top of that Mahedi came back from a massive six by slowing the ball down and taking it wide of Gill’s reach, drawing a miscue to long-off. Gill scored 121 of the 209 runs that came while he was at the wicket.
A bruised and battered Axar – both his wrists and his thigh in pain – kept India in the game. At 27 off 14, he somehow managed to hit the offspin off Mahedi for successive boundaries to arguably put India in ascendence with two overs to go, but Mustafizur had other ideas.
Irony peaked when Thakur stared in disbelief having hit an an innocuous low full toss straight to a fielder, but Axar was properly done in by a slower offcutter. Tanzim then closed out successfully as the last pair was asked to score 12 off the last over.
While it may have been a dead rubber, a win in a close finish against India is always welcome after the many heartbreaks Bangladesh have endured in thrillers against them. The trend only began to turn around late last year when Mehidy the batter fashioned a one-wicket win in an ODI.
Shubman GillShakib Al HasanTanzim Hasan SakibBangladeshIndiaBangladesh vs IndiaAsia Cup
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo