For a while, Shubman Gill (121 off 133 balls; 8x4, 5x6) took the slow, turning pitch out of the equation at the R Premadasa Stadium. The opener’s timing and strokeplay were so sublime and his shot selection so perfect that Bangladesh, who had scored 265/8 in the Asia Cup Super-4 clash after half-centuries from skipper Shakib Al Hasan (80 off 85 balls; 6x4, 3x6) and Towhid Hridoy (54 off 81b; 5x4, 2x6), looked tense.
Gill is a proud owner of precise footwork which enables him to get to the pitch of the ball and loft it without losing his shape. He had watched his senior colleagues lose their shape and minds as they attempted shots that were not on, on a sluggish surface and large playing area.
Playing a wonderful solo, he had just deposited a dart bowled from round the wicket by Mahedi Hasan deep into the midwicket stands. The equation then was 57 needed in 39 balls. To Mahedi’s credit, he came over the stumps, bowled it wider and slower and made Gill reach for the ball, only for the opener to hit it straight to Hridoy at long-off.
Earlier, he had played a ridiculous lofted stroke over extra cover for six, despite being beaten in flight by the skilful Shakib. After his departure, Axar Patel showed how far he has come along with his batting and scored a 34-ball 42 to take the equation to 12 needed off 9, but then a well-disguised slower one off Mustafizur Rahman saw him hole out to Tanzid at long-off.
India were eventually bowled out for 259 in 49.5 overs to give Bangladesh the first win over them in the Asia Cup after 2012 in Mirpur. At the Premadasa in Colombo, when teams have pursued a score of 265-plus, they been successful only five times. 38 times they have tasted disappointment. India made it 39. Yet, India skipper Rohit Sharma won the toss and chose to bowl.
The match was a dead rubber. India had already qualified for the final of the tournament to be played on Sunday against Sri Lanka at the same venue and Bangladesh had been knocked out. Rohit wanted India, who have not chased under lights in Colombo to be challenged.
He got an idea how tough it was when he fell for a duck, spooning a catch to cover to hand debutant Tanzim Hasan his first wicket off just the second ball. Hasan also had India’s debutant Tilak Varma, who he had dismissed in the under-19 World Cup final in 2020 in Potchefstroom too.
At 17/2, India were in trouble. KL Rahul added 57 for the third wicket with Gill, but the introduction of spin allowed Bangladesh to string a sequence of dots. With energetic fielding inside the 30-yard circle, singles dried up and that frustrated Rahul, who tried to break free and loft off-spinner Mahedi over mid-wicket but found Shamim Hossain in the way.
Ishan Kishan too struggled against both the off-spinners Mahedi and Mehidy Hasan Miraj. A poor attempt at a reverse sweep to find a release shot after playing nine dots, found him plumb in front.
Suryakumar Yadav looked ill at ease and missed an array of ugly sweeps during his 34-ball 26 before being castled.
Earlier, Mohammed Shami, playing in place of Bumrah, cleaned up Litton Das for a duck with a wonderful indipper. Shardul Thakur dismissed Tanzid and Anamaul Haque and when Axar Patel dismissed Miraj, Bangladesh had slumped to 59/4.
Shakib was dropped by Rahul off Varma on 28 and he made the most of the reprieve.