The meeting of the heads of the political parties, which are part of the INDIA, will be held in the third week of December.
Having ticked most of the boxes at the ongoing Asia Cup, considered the final preparatory tournament in the build-up to the ICC World Cup next month, India decided to test their bench strength in Friday’s dead rubber against Bangladesh, who are already ousted from the tournament.
And the ploy could have worked to a great extent had India not faltered on the field, which allowed Bangladesh to get to a healthy 265 for 8 after Rohit Sharma won the toss and invited Shakib-Al Hasan to bat at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
In reply, opener Shubman Gill (121) stood tall, slamming his 5th ODI century against a spin-heavy Bangladeshi attack that made the other Indian batters dance to their tunes. Later, Axar Patel smashed a 34-ball 42 to raise India’s hopes before Bangladesh bowlers came back to turn the tide in their favour, and record a consolation win by 6 runs, their only victory in the Super Four Stage.
In energy-sapping conditions on a sultry Friday evening, the Punjab batter was tested not just physically but also mentally as he had to take charge of the chase, especially after the top and middle order batters failed to contribute anything substantial, barring a 26 from Suryakumar Yadav.
As a result, Gill had to shift gears multiple times but banked mostly on the odd singles and twos to keep the scoreboard ticking even as wickets kept tumbling at the other end. After Rohit Sharma was packed back for a second-ball duck, Tilak Verma (5) endured a forgettable debut, and the in-form duo of KL Rahul (19) and Ishan Kishan (5) also flunked the spin test.
The onus was on Gill to pull India out of the debacle, and the right-hander almost got India on the brink of a stunning win, but the regular loss of wickets made his job even tougher. Ranked second in the ICC ODI batting chart, Gill struck six fours and four sixes on his way to the three-figure mark in 117 deliveries. Gill, in the process, crossed 1,000 runs in the format in the calendar year 2023.
With India closing in, and requiring another 63 off 39, Gill deposited Mahedi Hasan for a flat six before the off-spinner came back strongly with a widish delivery outside off to end Gill’s vigil after scoring 121 off 133 deliveries.
Gill’s dismissal raised hopes for Bangladesh to sniff a win, but Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur almost denied them the luxury with a solid 40-run stand. Axar took calculative risks and used the long handle to good effect to almost hand India a fighting win before Mustafizur Rahman packed him back to ensure Bangladesh’s victory.
Earlier, Mohammed Shami and Shardul, who were brought back for the game, provided India a sensational start, removing the top three inside the first six overs before three dropped catches allowed Bangladesh to capitalize.
Reduced to 28 for 3 and further down to 59 for 4, skipper Shakib showed why he is still rated highly in international cricket. Coming in to bat with Bangladesh in a precarious position, the left-hander led the fightback with a belligerent half century before Towhid Hridoy scored another calculative fifty to save Bangladesh from the blushes. The duo consolidated the innings with a 101-run partnership for the fifth wicket to set the tone for the lower order to play their shots.
India’s fielding was sloppy on the day, with as many as three catches being dropped, and one of those was of Shakib on 28, when KL Rahul failed to collect an outside edge from the southpaw off debutant Tilak Verma. The Bangladesh skipper made full use of the reprieve and raced to a fifty by lofting Axar Patel for a six over midwicket. One ball later, the left-arm spinner was once again dispatched over midwicket as the Bangladeshi pair upped the ante after getting their eyes in.
At the other end, Hridoy took off-spinner Verma to the cleaners on a couple of occasions, even as Shakib showed no mercy to the other left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja en-route the 100-run stand. Shardul Thakur then returned for a second spell, and managed to break the flourishing partnership with the wicket of the dangerous Shakib, who by then had reached 80 off 85 balls.
Shakib’s dismissal put the pressure of scoring on Hridoy, and the right-hander turned out to be a handy batter, scoring a resilient 54 of 81, before the lower order put up a brave show in the final 10 overs. Nasum Ahmed (44), Mahedi Hasan (29 not out) and Tanzim Hasan Sakib (14 not out) helped Bangladesh accumulate 72 runs even after the dismissal of Hridoy in the 42nd over of the innings.
For India, Shardul was the pick of the bowling unit, returning 3/65, while Mohammed Shami ended up with a couple of scalps. Prasidh Krishna, playing his first game after returning from an injury, managed to pick a wicket, and so did the left-arm spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.
India will now take on Sri Lanka in the final on Sunday.