The best team at ICC events since 2010 marched into its fourth final in seven tournaments to set up a summit clash against Pakistan, pitting the tournament’s best bowling sides against each other
Like they did in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final, first time semi-finalists Bangladesh went toe to toe with India for about 30 overs – even inched ahead perhaps – but came apart against the non-turning, part-time, extremely slow offspin of Kedar Jadhav. They slipped from 142 for 2 in 25 overs to only 264 on a fresh pitch at Edgbaston. While Jadhav brought down the total from the realms of 320, Jasprit Bumrah’s final spell of 5-0-27-1 shaved a further 20 off what Bangladesh looked good for.
In response, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan put up an exhibition, picking apart Bangladesh’s bowling with delectable stroke-play. Rohit brought up his first hundred of this tournament and moved to No. 2 on the run-scoring charts; Dhawan reclaimed the lead from Tamim Iqbal; and Kohli – who had been scoring runs despite not looking at his best – signalled a return to sublime form while becoming the fastest to 8000 ODI runs. It was an ominous sign for India’s opponents in what will be their third final appearance in the last four 50-over ICC events; in the other event they lost in the semi-final.
There was a certain grace to how India chased down the target, the slickness of a team used to such situations. This was their sixth semi-final in ICC events in seven years. Veterans of big matches, they prefer to sit back while their oppositions work themselves into a frenzy; when they make a mistake, India swoop in.
It looked like they had done that in the seventh over when Bhuvneshwar Kumar out-thought the aggressive Sabbir Rahman after he had raced away to 19 off 12. Having seen him chip down twice to clear mid-off, Bhuvneshwar started to mix bouncers and length balls. Bumrah did his bit by cramping Tamim Iqbal up at the other end. Thirteen straight dot balls brought the expected loose shot, and the wicket, to the sucker ball, reducing Bangladesh to 31 for 2.
Mushfiqur Rahim kept attacking, dropping Bhuvneshwar over mid-off, but settled down soon, carrying the struggling Tamim. Signs were ominous for India – reminiscent of the World T20 semi-final last year – when Hardik Pandya overstepped when castling Tamim, who would have been out for 12 off 36 then.
Instead Tamim and Mushfiqur batted perfectly against the India spinners. Mushfiqur is a hard man to bowl to for a spinner because his height means that good length balls end up getting cut or pulled. And he has the various sweeps to unsettle them when they start pitching it up. Tamim grew in confidence, too. Every time India strung together dot balls, either of them would hit a boundary. By the 25th over, they had added 111 in 19.1 overs. They had negated the main spinners, and had also taken 28 off Pandya’s three overs, which meant India now had a fifth-bowler problem.