To say the ghost of Bengaluru was laid to rest by Bangladesh’s first T20I win over India in the first of three matches in New Delhi yesterday would both be overselling and underselling the seven-wicket win. While the pain of losing to India in the 2016 World Twenty20 when Bangladesh needed just two runs from three balls will not be forgotten with one victory, the win at the smog-choked Arun Jaitley Stadium will be significant for other reasons.
It would have told the Tigers that it is possible to survive without Shakib Al Hasan -- banned for two years on the eve of the tour by the ICC for not reporting corrupt approaches by a bookmaker -- and opener Tamim Iqbal, who is sitting out the tour to be with his pregnant wife. The batsmen at the crease when Bangladesh eclipsed India’s 148 for six were none other than Mushfiqur Rahim and skipper Mahmudullah Riyad, the players who had fluffed the finish three and a half years ago in Bengaluru. Again, more than exorcising the past, it was an auspicious sign for the future that in these two stalwarts, there was enough pedigree left in the team to take it forward in trying times.
And times were difficult. On a sluggish wicket India had rallied to score 30 runs in the last two overs to post an above-par 148 for six despite a fine bowling performance by Bangladesh. Then, opener Soumya Sarkar and Mushfiqur had done their best to provide the tourists a launching pad by taking the team to 114 at the end of the 17th over, which ended with Soumya being the third wicket to fall, bringing an end to a 60-run stand.
But Mushfiqur, then on 37 off 35 balls, was finding it hard to connect his big hits and got a substantial slice of luck when he was dropped at the midwicket fence by Krunal Pandya off leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal in the next over. As importantly, the ball had gone for four. Mahmudullah hit a boundary off the last ball to bring the equation down to 22 from the last two overs.
In the nick of time, Mushfiqur found his range -- a pull, a trademark scoop, a square drive and an edge realised four consecutive boundaries to end the 19th over bowled by Khaleel Ahmed, leaving Bangladesh to score just four off the last over from debutant Shivam Dube. Mushfiqur had reached 60 off 43 balls with eight fours and a six.
That would remain his unbeaten score as a scampered two and a wide levelled the margin with four balls to go, and Mahmudullah hit a six over long on to deliver Bangladesh’s first T20I win over India in nine attempts.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered her felicitations after the match, saying: “The whole nation is proud of seeing the team spirit of our players and their tremendous performance.”
Bangladesh’s chase had started with opener Liton Das leaving in the first over, offering a tame catch to point off a rank long hop from pacer Deepak Chahar. Fellow opener Mohammad Naim impressed on debut with a 28-ball 26 and, more importantly, struck up a 46-run partnership with Soumya Sarkar. He holed out off spinner Yuzvendra with the score on 54 for two in the eighth over.
Earlier, the Tigers overcame the absence of Shakib manfully as leg-spinner Aminul Islam and part-time off-spinner Afif Hossain impressed with their accuracy and turn after pacer Shafiul Islam removed dangerman Rohit Sharma in the very first over.
Pacers Al-Amin Hossain, playing his first T20I since March 2016, and Mustafizur Rahman combined with Shafiul to keep India to just 35 for one after the six Powerplay overs. Aminul then came in and reaped the reward as KL Rahul was surprised by the turn to offer a simple chance to Mahmudullah at short cover.
Mahmudullah was rewarded for sticking with Aminul, who was hit for two sixes in his first two overs, as the leg-spinner continued to flight the ball and Shreyas Iyer was beaten by the turn when trying to hit a third maximum, and was caught at the wide long off boundary.
With two left-handers at the crease in Rishabh Pant and opener Shikhar Dhawan, Afif came in and with his accurate off-stump line allowed just four runs from two overs.
The captain then helped strike the decisive blow in the 15th over, running 30 metres to chase down Pant’s nudge into a vacant leg side and then firing a throw to Mushfiqur Rahim to find Shikhar Dhawan, sent back by Pant, short of the crease.
In the following over, Afif induced a leading edge from debutant Shivam Dube, backpedalled and took a leaping one-handed catch over his left shoulder to have India five down for 102.
Undoing some of his shrewder decisions, Mahmudullah then tossed the ball to Shafiul Islam in the 18th over, although Mustafizur Rahman had two overs left. Despite taking the wicket of Pant, Shafiul was hit for 14 and the last over from Al-Amin cost 16.