Favourites India launched their campaign in style as they thrashed Bangladesh by 45 runs riding on a brilliant 83 by Rohit Sharma in the opening encounter of the Asia Cup T20 tournament on Wednesday.
Put into bat on a pacer-friendly wicket, India scored a challenging 166 for six with Rohit scoring his runs under pressure after they were reduced to 42 for three at one stage. Hardik Pandya (31 off 18 balls) was the other notable contributor.
In reply, Bangladesh were never in the game being restricted to 121 for seven in the stipulated 20 overs at the Shere Bangla National Stadium.
Their decision to prepare a greenish wicket and unleash four pacers boomeranged badly as the home team's batsmen could neither handle spin or pace and were virtually decimated on the day.
Veteran Ashish Nehra (3/23) was literally unplayable with his variations as well as brisk pace that he generated. He was on a hat-trick in his final over.
Jasprit Bumrah (1/23 in 4 overs) also dealt an initial blow while Pandya (1/23 in 4 overs), Ravichhandran Ashwin (1/23 in 4 overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (0/25 in 4 overs) maintained the pressure to indicate the real difference in quality between the two sides.
It was a welcome victory for India and their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Bangladesh soil after their disastrous ODI series loss last year.
Rohit built his innings to perfection amidst top-order collapse, hitting seven fours fours and three sixes as the 25,000 strong partisan Bangladeshi fans were stunned into silence.
He was complemented well by young Hardik Pandya, who smashed a quickfire 18-ball-31, including a huge six off home team's 'wonder boy' Mustafizur Rahaman, and four sweetly-timed boundaries. The Rohit-Pandya stand yielded 61 runs for the fifth wicket in only 4.3overs. Their 50 run stand came off only 17 balls.
While India got into trouble at 52 for three after first 10 overs, the next 10 saw them score a whopping 114 runs, primarily due to Rohit, who enthralled one and all with his dazzling stroke play.
When he was finally out to brilliant catch in the deep by Soumya sarkar, India had not only recovered but were also on their way to a competitive target.
Skipper Dhoni finished the innings with a pulled six off Al-Amin Hossain (3/37).
Rohit also added 55 runs for the fourth wicket with Yuvraj Singh after India were in trouble at 42 for three.
A free-flowing stroke player, Rohit curbed his natural game in the beginning, taking into account the nature of the pitch and the position that his team was in with top three already in the confines of the dug-out.
In fact, he scored his first 20 runs off 24 balls with India managing only 52 runs in the first 10 overs.
The turning point was the 11th over of the Indian innings bowled by Taskin Ahmed. On personal score of 21, Rohit slashed hard at a Taskin delivery but Shakib al Hasan, at point, dropped the catch and the complexion of the game changed drastically.
Rohit took full advantage of the drop as the next three deliveries yielded 14 runs including two fours and a six. The first shot was bisected between point and third man, for the the second he used the bounce to slash it over deep point and the third was steered with Mustafizur at third man letting it slip between his legs.
There was no stopping Rohit as he played a perfect 'Nataraja Shot' patented by the legendary Kapil Dev, pulling the Bangladesh captain behind square leg for a boundary.
Yuvraj also got some confidence as he played an on-drive off Mustafizur to collect a boundary. Rohit completed his 10th T20 International 50 off 42 balls with a single off Shakib Al Hasan.
But the first big hit that Yuvraj attempted, he holed out at the deep mid-wicket boundary off Shakib's bowling caught by Soumya Sarkar.
Rohit, however, continued to plunder runs as he stepped out to deposit Mashrafe over long-off for his second six followed by a pulled one bounce four and then a picture perfect cover drive.
While defending, Nehra got one to swing back to castle right-handed opener Mohammed Mithun (1), while Soumya Sarkar got one from Bumrah that kicked up a bit more kissing his gloves before Dhoni pouched on it gleefully. Bangladesh were 15 for two at that stage.
Imrul Kayes (14) was removed by Ashwin with Yuvraj Singh taking a good catch at deep fine leg. Bangladesh were then reduced to 51 for three in 10 overs. Once Shakib Al Hasan (3) was run-out after trying to steal a single, Bangladesh could never really recover.
Too many dot balls only added to the pressure as Dhoni kept the accurate Jadeja for the rear part of the Bangladesh innings. Once Shabbir Rahaman (44) was out, the local fans started leaving the stands.
Feature image source: AFP