CHITTAGONG, DEC. 23. It suited India that the agile Md. Kaif (80) and the in-form Rahul Dravid (53) got together at the crucial stage; otherwise there was every chance of Sourav Ganguly's experiments blowing up in his face.
The fourth-wicket pair put on 128 from 168 deliveries, and had it not been for the vital partnership and the lusty shots in the end overs by Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar, a total of 245 would not have been possible.
The target put the contest out of Bangladesh's reach, but at 45 for three in the 13th over and 88 for three 12 overs later, it did seem that India was struggling a little.
In the end, India won by 11 runs at the M.A. Aziz Stadium here on Thursday to go one-up in the three-match limited-overs series. The remaining two matches will be played back-to-back at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Sunday and Monday.
Habibul Bashar's decision to put India in was largely influenced by the dew factor. The ball darted around the first hour-and-a-half, and Bangladesh's seam-oriented attack exploited the helpful conditions to the hilt.
Actually, India did not make as many changes as was stated the previous evening. Wicketkeeper-batsman M.S. Dhoni and medium-pacer Joginder Sharma made their debut, while S. Sriram got an opportunity to play after four years. The Tamil Nadu left-hander's last outing was against Zimbabwe in Rajkot in 2001.
Batsman Virender Sehwag and left-arm pacer Zaheer Khan were rested. Considering that the so-called experiments are being conducted with the already-tried, it does seem that the selection committee has been unfair to VV.S. Laxman, who has been `rested' for no apparent reason. In the 10 ODI innings that he played since the Asia Cup, the Hyderabadi scored 260 runs at an average of 28.9, which is higher than Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh and on par with Kaif.
Ganguly opened the batting with Sachin Tendulkar for the first time since the 2003 World Cup. But the once-famous partnership lasted only two deliveries as the former played on to medium-pacer Tapash Baisya, driving away from the body on the back foot.
Yuvraj Singh being promoted to No. 3 did not seem the right choice, what with the burly left-hander's limited technique against the moving ball, and the host's seam attack displaying accuracy on a pitch where the odd delivery kept low.
It was Tendulkar who was dismissed next when first-change Nazmul Hossain got the Mumbaikar's inside edge when the batsman played across the line.
Baisya beat Yuvraj with well-concealed slower ones twice, and even had the left-hander playing tentatively outside the off-stump a while later. The Punjab batsman replied with two boundaries. However, mediumpacer Mushfiqur Rahman, who replaced Baisya in the attack, had Yuvraj leg-before in his very first over.
Kaif, whose last international outing was during the Test series against Australia, used the short strides well to the seamers as well as the lone spinner in left-arm Md. Rafique. His batsmanship is about placements, not that he lacks the shots. In fact, he played a few punchy ones on the off-side.
When on 58 and 59, he had two reprieves off Mahmud. The second was a sitter, dropped by Bashar at mid-wicket. Dravid's innings was typical — precise and, at times, forceful.
The Bangladesh attack was tight in the middle overs, and India, which was 173 for three in the 40th, was down 199 for six by the 45th. The total was propped up by the 46 runs which Agarkar and Pathan mustered in the last five overs.
Left-armer Pathan struck in his third over, after which Bangladesh's top-order lived up to its reputation of being brittle, reduced to 44 for three by the 15th over.
Bashar (65) turned in a skipper's knock and found able allies in Aftab Ahmed (30), with whom he put on 64 for the fourth in 82 deliveries, and Rajin Saleh, 35 in 56 balls for the fifth. Though it was not obvious on the face of it, the host's scoring rate was almost on part with India's until the 30th over and only slightly lower at the end of the 40th. And if India regained control it was thanks to Sriram, who picked up the wickets of Ahmed, Saleh and the dangerous Bashar, all of whom were caught in the deep while giving the charge.
The Indian bowling was an experienced one while medium-pacer Joginder displayed control.
Vice-captain Khaled Mashud (50 not out) fought on, playing some positive shots, but the writing was on the wall by then. Nevertheless, it was an inspired effort, one that is certain to make coach Dav Whatmore proud.
Source: The Hindu