India survived a rough opening to get their Asia Cup campaign off to a winning start with an in the end comfortable 45-run victory over tournament hosts Bangladesh in Mirpur. Rohit Sharma’s innings of 83 helped give India a total of 166 for six that looked above average on a tricky pitch and always left Bangladesh up against it in reply.
While Bangladesh didn’t crumble after their own shaky start, the run rate required was never within their grasp. Led by three wickets from the excellent Ashish Nehra, Bangladesh faded to 121 for 7 to allow India to get a win on the board ahead of their crunch showdown with fierce rivals Pakistan on Saturday.
In what was the first ever Asia Cup match played over the Twenty20 format, India were caught out early on by the greenness of the pitch having been put into bat. At one stage they were 42 for 3 and the Bangladesh crowd was on their feet, sensing a repeat of their side’s historic one-day international series win over India last June. But a fine, measured innings from Sharma steadied the ship, before he and Hardik Pandya let loose in the closing overs to see India to a total that looked a long way off at one stage.
With the momentum having been seized, India got on top of Bangladesh’s batsmen early, leaving a successful chase always looking improbable.
The victory only reinforces India’s tag as favorites not just to win their sixth Asia Cup but to take the title at the World Twenty20 on home soil in the coming weeks. India had rejuvenated their fortunes in cricket’s shortest format by completing a historic series whitewash of Australia Down under last month, before following it up with a 2-1 victory over Sri Lanka.
Yet the signs in the early going in Mirpur were that India might be about to repeat their opening loss to Sri Lanka. Then India had failed to adjust to conditions that were more testing for the batsmen than had been anticipated. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, who returned to the side in place of Ajinkya Rahane after sitting out the Sri Lanka series, both fell victim to that failing in the opening five overs. Suresh Raina then saw his middle stump taken out as he chased down the pitch to the first over of spin from Mahmudullah.
Given a position of 43 3 after eight overs, Bangladesh will be bitterly disappointed with how the innings ended up. And there is one moment they will look back on particularly ruefully—when Sharma mistimed a shot straight to Shakib Al Hasan at point but saw the catch put down.
It proved a crucial drop. Sharma went on to prove the bedrock of the innings before he and the again impressive Pandya smashed 60 off 24 balls between the start of the 16th and end of the 19th over. While both were gone in the final over as Al-Amin Hossain fought back to finish with three wickets, the damage had been done.
And India immediately got on top of Bangladesh’s reply. Seamers Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah both found plenty of early movement to pile the pressure on Bangladesh openers Soumya Sarkar and Mohammad Mithum and remove both in the first four overs.
Still, like India, Bangladesh were able to stop the bleeding, helped by 44 from Sabbir Rahman. Unlike India, though, Bangladesh could not crank up the run rate when required. When Shakib Al Hasan was run out in the 13th over as he slipped trying to turn back for an ill-conceived attempt to grab a single and their main hope Sabbir was gone a couple of overs later, the game looked up.
Two wickets in two balls for Nehra in the 17th over effectively put a seal on the result. For Nehra, a 36-year-old who only returned from five years in the international wilderness at the start of the year, it was vindication, both for him and the selectors.
And a victory and experience of the conditions in Mirpur should stand India in good stead to face off with their fierce foes on Saturday. Bangladesh, meanwhile, will hope to regroup against qualifiers the United Arab Emirates on Friday.