Bangladesh did a pretty good impersonation of Rafael Nadal for the first 30 overs of the quarter-final, defending everything with intensity and precision, but when the moment came to hit that winner which sets Nadal apart from other defensive players, Bangladesh kept defending and paid the price. Rohit Sharma kept absorbing the pressure in a largely subdued innings, but exploded in the end to go from 60 off 80 to 137 off 126, helping India score the second-highest score in a World Cup knockout match.
Bangladesh showed they were no pushovers with bowling and fielding that put India under pressure, but the wheels came off towards the end with possibly everything, including the umpiring, going India’s way.Suresh Raina played his part by stinging Bangladesh in a concentrated attack of 65 off 57, and Ravindra Jadeja made sure the momentum continued with a 23 off 10 in the end, taking India to a total that required high-risk batting from Bangladesh. Tamim Iqbal came out swinging, but the chase was too difficult to sustain against an in-form Indian bowling attack, which has claimed all 70 wickets on offer so far. This was MS Dhoni’s 100th win as captain, and 11th on the trot in World Cups.
That the eventual margin of victory was huge should not take anything away from the significance of the umpiring blunder. India had only just started to look threatening with 41 runs in 4.3 overs of the batting Powerplay when Rohit hit a full toss straight down deep midwicket’s throat. This was the time when for a split second Bangladesh thought they could work at wresting back the control, but to their horror they saw square-leg umpire Aleem Dar had called a no-ball.
Replays showed Rohit had met the ball waist-high well in front of his normal stance, and the ball was on its way down. Not only was it not a no-ball, it was inconsistent that the on-field umpire made such a hurried call when extreme caution has been the norm. Nine out of 10 times in modern cricket, Rohit would have been given out after replays; this just happened to be that other occasion.
Rohit was 90 off 101 when he was reprieved. India were 196 in the 40th over. Bangladesh were looking at Dhoni and Jadeja, who have not been in the best hitting form, for the last 10 overs. Instead, they had to contend with some exquisite stroke-play from Rohit. The mayhem in the end all added up to nearly double the 35-over score of 155 for 3. Rohit’s three sixes took him to the joint-fifth-highest score at MCG, his average of 83.75 the best among those who have scored over 250 runs at the venue, where the final will be played. He also became only the third visiting batsman to score two hundreds at the ground.
Some of Rohit’s hitting in the end was just too good for Bangladesh. They were at the wrong end of the umpiring, but they will rue plays both big and small that hurt them in the end. They realised soon enough that this was a flat pitch – the flattest in Australia this summer – and even though India added 75 for the first wicket they defended really well. They were accurate, hardly bowled any bad balls once Rubel Hossein and Shakib Al Hasan came on to bowl, were backed up in the field, and the drying of the runs drew three unforced errors from India.
Nadal knows when to pull the trigger, just when he has run the opponent ragged. That moment presented itself when Ajinkya Rahane fell trying to force the pace, making it 115 for 3 in the 28th over. That was when you would have expected Bangladesh to attack Raina and the tiring Rohit, but they held back their attacking options. Mashrafe Mortaza, their captain who has never looked 100% fit in the tournament, came on to bowl. It took Bangladesh 42 balls to bowl Raina his first bouncer. It was duly top-edged. Raina, though, had galloped away to 41 off 41 by then after a slow start of 13 off 25.
Other small little things were not paid attention to either. The fielders inside the circle sat back on the ring allowing easy singles, the bowlers did nothing to stop Raina backing up too far and too early at the non-striker’s end, the fielders threw at Dhoni’s end even when Rohit was struggling with fitness, and when you would have expected them to cut the single with Rohit on 99 they actually bowled a no-ball because they didn’t have enough men inside the circle.