After pouring rain stopped play in the India-Bangladesh encounter there were fears that rain might strike on the second day of the match as well and ruin things for the organisers. Fortunately, the rain stayed away and cricket lovers at the Bangabandhu Stadium were treated to generous doses of good batting. To start the day’s proceedings, Akram Khan blasted an invaluable half century and took the hosts to 249 off their allotted 50 overs. Not to be left out of the action, Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly slammed an unbeaten 135 and took India to an easy eight wicket win in the Asia Cup at Dhaka.
Though they used eight bowlers in all, the Indians could not better yesterday’s performance. Spinners and pacemen alike dished out a series of less than inspiring overs. Former captain Akram Khan who has promised much but not really made good his promise so far, used the long handle to good effect. The powerfully built middle order batsman clouted the ball all around the park. No bowler was spared.
After Agarkar and company were hit out of the attack, Ganguly brought himself on and did worse than the rest. He was welcomed into the attack by a firm thump over mid wicket and that was just the beginning. Striking the ball cleanly, Akram Khan took 20 runs off Ganguly in one over.
Kumaran was too short. Joshi too straight. Kumble too predictable. There wasn’t a single thing for India to be proud of. After slamming 66 off just 52 balls, Akram Khan played one shot too many and was caught by debutant Hemang Badani off the bowling of Ajit Agarkar.
Naimur Rehman, who was dismissed without facing a ball in the game against Sri Lanka held one end up in solid fashion. When the last ball of the innings was delivered Rehman was unbeaten on 39. With 249 on the board the hosts would be more than pleased with their performance. A healthy score, one made possible only by a vicious last minute assault that yielded 91 runs in 10 overs. Without taking away any credit from the Bangladesh batsmen, it must be said that the Indians helped them along in every possible manner.
A dazzling start to the Indian innings gave some hope that the match could be conclusively decided before the rains started. With dark clouds hanging ominously all around the stadium, Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly went berserk from very early on. The adage ‘coming out with guns blazing’ was put to practical use.
In an attempt to introduce an element of variety, Bangladesh opened the bowling with spinner Mohammed Rafique. Ganguly licked his fingers in anticipation. After playing out one ball with caution, Ganguly opened his shoulders and sent the ball into the stands past midwicket. The floodgates opened and all hell broke loose.
Tendulkar had been away from the strike for a majority of the initial overs and more than made up for that when he did have a go at the bowling. Chalking up an over of 23 runs against Manjarul Islam, Tendulkar revealed his full array of strokes. Toying with the bowling in a manner that bordered on arrogance, Tendulkar destroyed Islam’s confidence in the space of one single over.
Having taken the lion’s share of the strike, Ganguly was five short of his half century when Tendulkar miscued a shot off the bowling of debutant Mushfiq Rehman. The ball went high up in the air and came down into the waiting hands of Habibul Basher at mid on. Dismissed for an entertaining 25-ball 36, Tendulkar was replaced by Hemang Badani.
An innings that started in entertaining fashion ended tamely as India coasted to victory. After Badani hit a long hop straight to the waiting hands of Aminul Islam off the bowling of Enamul Hoque in the 25th over, Ganguly in the company of former skipper Mohammed Azharuddin took India to an easy win. Although Badani made a compact 35, one thought he should really have gone on to make at least a half century.
Ganguly’s innings was generously peppered with trademark shots that cleared the ropes with ease. Although he played with authority, Ganguly came very close to being run out. The Bengal southpaw stumbled when Azhar turned down a single, and made it back to his crease just in time. Apart from that hiccup, it was a case of Ganguly all the way.
Azharuddin was restrained in his innings of 35 but every now and then played the kind of shot that amply explained why he was a force to reckon with even at the age of 37. Unbeaten on 135 Ganguly would have heaved a sigh of relief as India collected two points and opened their account in the seventh Asia Cup.
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