Reliving the Bangalore T20I between India and Bangladesh on 23rd March, 2016
The encounter was supposed to be one where the hosts were to rip apart their guests. India had to win to survive early elimination, and on a skidding Bangalore track, India’s spinners would have to operate after Bangladesh’s own slow bowlers utilised it.
The opposition was aware that openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan lacked recent runs, but they successfully garnered 42 from 5.5 overs. With one delivery of the powerplay remaining, India’s neighbours’ most potent weapon – with his most potent plan – clicked. Mustafizur Rahman’s deceiving grip on the hard, new ball foxed Rohit to sky one to square leg, where the other Rahman – Sabbir – grabbed the opportunity.
The Chinnaswamy crowd welcomed Virat Kohli as if their king had come out to battle his fiercest foe, the deafening cheer conquering the quiet night. But little did they know that their hero was to be left alone by his partner Dhawan only an over later, falling lbw to Bangladesh’s veteran all-rounder Shakib al Hasan.
But an in-form Kohli was not to be perturbed, they thought, only for the unfamiliar Bangalore surface to test him well.
His first 11 balls fetched only seven runs, and it took India’s celebrated match winner 23 deliveries to collect a boundary – his only one – when his polished sweep cleared the deep mid-wicket fence against the off-spin of Shuvagata Hom and pushed his score to 24.
Kohli falls, India in a spot of bother
Kohli fell into the trap in the very next ball as Hom bowled the same line and length only to go quicker in the air, India’s number three attempted the same shot that got him six and Bangladesh saw his back much earlier than his fans expected as the woodwork behind him was shattered.
A surprise was in store for all when all-rounder Hardik Pandya walked out to bat before his senior partners Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni.
The intention of the Indian camp to elevate the right-hander seemed clear – they were desperate for big hits from ball one. And Pandya obliged, his second ball heave flying over deep square leg for a maximum, before plundering Shakib for consecutive fours.
It required a diving Soumya Sarkar effort at the same position over which Pandya’s six travelled to end a useful cameo, as the all-rounder smacked 15 from seven.
At the other end, an out of touch Suresh Raina showed glimpses of form and seemed like dragging India to a safe total on a sluggish strip, his twin sixes off Al-Amin Hossain in the same over delighting the disappointed crowd, who were not treated to the run fest that they expected from the Chinnaswamy pitch.
But five overs later, Raina fell to the same bowler, and India laboured to 145 for 7 courtesy of Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin’s few boundaries and sharp running.
Sloppy start by India in the chase
The chase began with Jasprit Bumrah conceding three extra runs by letting a Tamim Iqbal flick go across the fine leg boundary line and further erred by giving the opener a life on putting down a regulation catch at short fine leg off Ashwin.
Dhoni handed over the ball to Bumrah in the following over and Tamim capitalised on the opportunity by tonking him for four fours. But the aggressive opener paid the price for his over ambitiousness when Jadeja had him stumped after Ashwin’s early breakthrough for India in the form of Mithun Ali.
Smart glovework from the Indian skipper sent back Sabbir off a wide delivery from Raina when the chase neared the half way mark. Dhoni was alert in blowing away the bails when Sabbir’s back foot was in the air, a reluctant and half-hearted appeal enough to win him the wicket.
Bangladesh emulated India by throwing up a surprise in the batting order, when their captain Mashrafe Mortaza took it upon himself to dismantle the Indian bowlers, but unlike Pandya, he scored off only one ball out of the five that he faced, treating Raina with the disrespect that a part-timer usually encounters.
All to play for
The Indian spinners continued to cast a web around the rampaging Bangladeshi batsmen. Jadeja bowled Mortaza when he danced down in search of an impactful shot, while Ashwin accounted for Shakib – who looked like controlling the innings with timely big hits each time that India got back in the game – to leave the visitors at 95 for 5 with 52 to get from 47; dropped chances by Ashwin and Dhoni in between complicated things for India.
Sarkar’s batting was not as dependable as his catching in the tournament – considering his exemplary effort on the boundary line against Pakistan in Kolkata – and Ashish Nehra had him caught at long-on after a run-a-ball 21. The Bangla Tigers required 21 more with not many balls left, and Mahmudullah released the pressure by finding the point fence off the final ball of Nehra’s over.
Dhoni returned to Bumrah, and the young man did not disappoint, allowing only six from the penultimate over. That left Pandya’s inexperience with the luxury of defending 11 from the final over.
Thrilling final over
Rahim mingled his crafty batting with Pandya’s inexperience by creaming two fours. Mushfiqur punched the air and India were staring at defeat against Bangladesh for the first time in a T20 and also in their first game against the Tigers on their own soil in 18 years.
2 needed from 3.
India remained in the match as Pandya’s attempted yorker resulted in a full toss and the confident Mushfiqur holed out to deep square leg; next ball, another attack on the stumps from Pandya went for another full toss and another set batsman – this time Mahmudullah – whacked, and another Bangla wicket fell.
Out of nowhere, India sniffed victory. No run scored from two balls, two further wickets down.
2 to win from 1.
Hom, the number nine, had to manage 1 if India were to be dragged into a Super Over.
It had thus far proven to be a game of gambles, a match of amazement. Pandya was promoted, and Bangladesh emulated by sending Mortaza at number 5. Misfields and dropped catches added to the drama.
Also read: Lowest ever scores defended by India in T20I
Dhoni stood behind the stumps with one glove off, to quickly effect a run-out. Nerves swept across the Chinnaswamy like an epidemic; Pandya ran in to deliver what would be the deciding factor of India’s campaign in the tournament. Hom swung his bat to the short ball outside off, but in vain; Dhoni gathered it and sprinted to dislodge the stumps. Millions awaited the outcome.
Mustafizur, running for his life, was caught short of his crease by the rapidly reacting Dhoni and India won by 1 run.
The whole nation breathed.