KL Rahul’s solid hundred at No 4 and an oldschool masterclass from Mahendra Singh Dhoni were the big gains for India in their emphatic 95-run victory over Bangladesh in the second World Cup warm-up game in Cardiff on Tuesday. Rahul (108 off 99 balls) took the attack back to the opposition after India suffered early setback in the form of their openers. Shikhar Dhawan got out at one while Rohit Sharma could not manage more than 19. Joined by Dhoni, who also scored a century (113 off 78 balls), he played his normal shots and stitched a 164-run stand which powered India to 359 for 7 against a Bangladesh attack that went off the boil.
Bangladesh batsmen, barring Liton Das (73) and Mushfiqur Rahim (90), who added 120 runs for the third wicket, were never in charge and found it hard to get going. They were all-out for 264 in 49.3 overs.
While Rahul and Dhoni were the biggest positives to have emerged from batting, Kuldeep Yadav (3/47 in 10 overs) and Yuzvendra Chahal (3/55 in 10 overs) also reestablished their form just at the right time before the tournament proper. It was a walk in the park for the spinners as they guided the team home and the pacers took the back seat. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled only 14 out of the 49.3 overs.
For skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri, the biggest satisfaction has to be Rahul’s performance at No 4. His technique was perfect and the risk-free attacking batting as per Shastri’s lingo was “just what the doctor ordered”. With this century Rahul is all set to take the number four slot in the World Cup and with Shankar failing once again, his case is more than won.
Rahul and Dhoni had contrasting approaches in their batting, which yielded favourable results for the title contenders. Dhoni used the platform created by Rahul to launch a brutal assault in the final overs to take the score past 350. He never let the run rate come down and managed his personal strike rate at above-100. He had no problem in finding boundaries at his will in regular intervals. This innings had all the touch of the old Dhoni who took the first few balls to read the condition and then blasted his ways to runs.
While Shikhar Dhawan (5) was back in the hut after being adjudged plumb in-front by Mustafizur Rahaman, Rohit Sharma (19 off 42 balls) struggled for the better part of his stay, even as skipper Kohli (47 off 46 balls) looked solid at the other end. Rahul looked solid from the beginning and found the gaps with ease, hitting 12 boundaries and four sixes. Dhoni’s innings had eight boundaries and as many as seven sixes. With the composed Dhoni dealing with the singles and the occasional boundary, Rahul was in his flowing self during his stay at the crease. However, after the first 25 balls in which Dhoni scored 24, he suddenly changed gears, attacking young off-spinner Mehidy Hasan Miraj and Bangladesh were left ducking for cover.
Rahul started with a cut off Abu Jayed followed by an off-drive. Jayed repeatedly provided him width and he beat the off-side cordon with ease. When Shakib bowled short, he was dispatched over the mid-wicket fence for a maximum. The rusty Shakib (2/58 in 6 overs) was taken to the task by both Rahul and Dhoni, who got easy runs off the world’s No. 1 ranked all-rounder. Rahul hit Mustafizur (1/43 in 8 overs) for two sixes over square leg before being dismissed by Sabbir Rahaman’s part-time spin in the 44th over.
Dhoni then took over and the last overs produced 91 runs with the veteran taking Rubel Hossain (2/62 in 8 overs) to the task in the 45th and 47th overs, scoring 25 runs. In between, the 46th over from Sabbir fetched India 15 runs. His century came with a signature Dhoni six — a down the ground shot off a length delivery from Jayed.
(With inputs from PTI)