Hardik and Kuldeep lead India to their second win in the Super Eight

India

India 196 for 5 (Hardik 50*, Tanzim 2-32) beat Bangladesh 146 for 8 (Shanto 40, Kuldeep 3-19, Bumrah 2-13) by 50 runs

By the time India wakes up on Sunday, it is possible their team might have qualified for the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup 2024. They were too good for Bangladesh in Antigua, a total of 196 built by series of quickfire cameos in defiance of a slow pitch carrying them through to victory by 50 runs. If Australia beat Afghanistan, both they and India will move into the final four.

The opening conundrum

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli as a partnership has won many a match for India, but at this T20 World Cup, they are yet to click. There was even a moment’s confusion when they were running between the wickets, Rohit unsure of whether there was a single on to midwicket’s right. It was stop-start but they eventually got the run. The team will hope the same thing happens to them as the tournament goes on because pairing them together at the top of the order is allowing India to pack their middle order with six-hitters. That advantage is helping them post par-plus totals in tough conditions.

Bangladesh’s bright spot

Tanzim Hasan did as much as he could to mess with that plan. He was Bangladesh’s best bowler and he earned that mantle by doing the one thing a big-hitter hates. He was unpredictable. Kohli came charging to meet him but he did the batter with change of pace and let him have it with a send-off. Suryakumar Yadav managed to get a six away first ball but was overwhelmed by extra bounce the next delivery. Tanzim’s slower balls gripped and misbehaved off the pitch. And when he went on-pace, he made sure to hit the pitch hard to extract variation in bounce.

India’s counterattack

Rishabh Pant was the firestarter. After India went from 71 for 1 to 77 for 3, they suffered nine balls without a boundary. Sometimes, in good batting conditions, that’s the price you pay. These weren’t good batting conditions. The pitch and the outfield were slow. They couldn’t wait till the death overs to make up the difference. Fully aware of that, Pant, who was 12 off 15, burst to life. A left-hander’s cover drive is usually a thing of beauty but the one that Mustafizur had to endure was something else. It was power stripped to its purest essence. It was chilling. Pant hit five boundaries in eight balls and fell looking for another one.

The highlight

Rishad Hossain will no longer be denied. Having had to wait because the culture in Bangladesh does not rate wristspinners, (even as the rest of the world made it plain they were game-changers) he has arrived at this T20 World Cup as their most exciting cricketer. His dismissal of Pant secured Bangladesh their best period of play in this game – 2.4 overs of singles and dots between the 12th and the 15th. He took two wickets as well, both of batters looking to attack him. Pant caught off the reverse sweep and Dube bowled neck and crop. He may have given a few runs away but he never took a backward step. Not even when he had to bowl one of the death overs.

The half-centurion

Hardik broke India free of their second lull. They were 120 for 4 at the start of the 15th over. He was 6 off 7. Then he got a gift from Mahedi Hasan – a long hop with room to free the arms – and that was that. A lot of his power game comes from having incredible strength in his core and in his forearms. That’s why he’s able to hit even yorkers for boundaries. That’s why he doesn’t always need a full swing of the bat. That’s why he should be a little more adventurous than he lets himself be now. Although he came in only in the 12th over, and had faced only 18 deliveries by the 18th, his ability to access the boundary – each of the four that came in the last two overs were off his bat – helped him score a fifty.

This was the kind of innings India could never imagine. Even the stats bore that out. Only once before, in their entire history of T20Is, had they made more than the 196 they did on Saturday with none of their top five batters scoring a fifty. They’re usually freight trains, slow to start, but steadily picking up steam. At this World Cup, they’re finding a new identity. Four of the seven batters who went out to the middle scored at a strike rate of 150 or more.

The chase

Bangladesh’s opening partnership had provided only 13 runs in five previous innings. Given how crucial it is to start a big chase well, they were already at a handicap. Tanzid Hasan, coming off back-to-back ducks, finished less than a-run-a-ball. Litton Das didn’t survive the powerplay, although he was done in by a lovely slower ball from Hardik, who also made sure to drag the offbreak wide of the right-hand batter’s hitting arc, securing a mis-hit that was caught at deep midwicket.

A batting team at 67 for 2 after 10 overs should have put up more of a fight but Bangladesh ran into Kuldeep Yadav and never recovered. The googly caught Tanzid unawares for 29 off 31. The legbreak had Towhid Hridoy lbw on the slog sweep. And finally, he was also up to task when Shakib Al Hasan was looking to hit him out of the ground. A simple shift of line slightly wider outside the off stump messed with the left-hand batter’s hitting arc and had him caught at cover.

Bangladesh actually ended up attacking more balls than India did in this game – 49 to 48 – but a lot of them were panicked swings. It goes to show that clarity is crucial in T20 cricket. Kuldeep denied them that because they couldn’t pick the ball out of his hand. Jasprit Bumrah played his part as well, 15 of his 24 deliveries yielding dots along with two wickets.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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