Two close matches, both against South Asian rivals, and India kept their nerves intact to close out both in the ICC men’s T20 World Cup in progress now in Australia.
Rohit Sharma and his men in blue needed to up their ante when they took on Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in their campaign opener here on October 23.
They did that admirably and the team carved out a nerve-wracking last-ball victory, bouncing back from a difficult 31 for 4 to chase down Pakistan’s 159 for 8 after surviving anxious moments, Virat Kohli playing a fantastic knock of 82 not out.
They won quite comfortably against the Netherlands in Sydney, a game they were expected to cruise through, but then tasted their first defeat against South Africa on the bouncy and chilly conditions in Perth on October 30.
India’s previous record against Bangladesh, 10-1 in their favour, and their overall superior strength put them as favourites against Shakib Al Hasan and his men.
Shakib had told the media a day before the game at the Adelaide Oval last night that while India had come to win the World Cup his team had not, adding if Bangladesh win it will be a huge upset.
Bangladesh very nearly did that after starting off in blistering style with Litton Das blasting all the bowlers to notch up his fifth in just 21 balls.
It needed a special fielding effort from the team’s vice captain K L Rahul to bring India back into the game after a rain interruption.
Rahul, who re-found his touch with the bat and made 50 in 32 balls when India batted first, ran in from the deep and hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end with a direct hit even as Das was struggling to make his ground on a call for a second run from fellow-opener Najmal Hossain Shanto.
Das’s dismissal triggered a collapse from which Bangladesh did not recover and then a fine last over from Arshdeep Singh stopped them short of the revised target of 151 by five runs.
Asked in the post-game media conference about his game-changing direct hit at the stumps, Rahul said that it was all a result of constant fielding practise that the Indian team does during training.
“If you come to the ground, you’ll obviously see that we all train very hard on our fielding. We work on our throwing. We work on moving quickly. We work on running faster.. And I think when you keep working hard, it sometimes comes off. And today was one such time where the ball came to me, I threw the ball and hit the stump,” said Rahul.
He was clearly under pressure to rediscover his batting touch although as the team’s vice-captain he had some extra cushion. The team backed him fully, as indicated by head coach Rahul Dravid on the eve of the match.
“Today was an opportunity for me to stand up and do well. I got a good start. So I continued. I think every innings is important especially in a big tournament like this. So that is the only doubt that is in your mind. But at least I don’t get frustrated or I didn’t feel like my form or my confidence was low. I just didn’t get the runs. And it happens in the game. You’re not always going to keep scoring runs. It’s what you feel if you’re feeling confident and you know that good innings will come and it’s around the corner,” said Rahul.
“And I knew in my heart that I was seeing the ball well. Whatever I need to do, my processes were right. So I knew the good knock or good contribution for the team is coming,” he added.
About the way India got back into the game after Bangladesh had set off at break neck speed thanks to Das who was run out for 60 in 27 balls, Rahul said that the team always knew they could bounce back after the power play overs.
“Obviously the first six overs didn’t go according to our plan. I think Litton really played an exceptional knock. And who knows, innings like those really put pressure on the fielding and the bowling team because he played proper cricket shots. And he hit our bowlers off their good length and off their best ball. So that kind of innings really puts you under pressure. But we all knew that once the power play is over we can pull things back,” he said.
“Even without the rain, I think we could have put pressure on the opposition once the power play was done. We all knew that. We were confident about that,” he noted.
Incidentally when rain interrupted with Bangladesh on 66 for no loss after seven overs chasing India’s challenging total of 184 for six, India were behind their rivals on the DLS count.
Luckily for India play could commence after a 45-minute delay and India bowled purposefully and fielded brilliantly to turn things around against Bangladesh who panicked and lost a clutch of wickets soon after the rain break.
The victory has put India well on course for a berth in the semi-finals from Group 2.
With Pakistan’s victory over South Africa at the SCG in a rain-interrupted game tonight, Rohit and his men are comfortably perched on top of the group table with 6 points from three victories.
They conclude their league engagements with a match against Zimbabwe at the MCG here on November 6. It is the last group 2 game.
South Africa, who are in second place with five points, play against Netherlands on the same day in Adelaide in the first match while Pakistan take on Bangladesh in the second match there.