Gill, Abhishek fifties set up semi-final clash with Pakistan


India 265 (Gill 86, Abhishek 50, Onik 3-48, , Nayeem 2-36, Saif 2-41) beat Bangladesh 134 (Ghosh 43, Nagarkoti 3-18, Abhishek 2-11, Mavi 2-27) by 131 runs

Shubman Gill and Abhishek Sharma – state mates at Punjab from Under-14s, room-mates on tour and best friends off the field – combined to make decisive half-centuries in India’s 131-run win in the quarter-final against Bangladesh in Queenstown. This meant a semi-final showdown with Pakistan in Christchurch on January 30.

Gill top-scored with 86, but India’s batting depth was tested for the first time in the tournament. A middle-order implosion in the face of some tight bowling – from overs 20-40 where India scored just three boundaries – was then somewhat covered up by Abhishek’s industrious 49-ball 50 that propelled them to 265 in the final over.

Bangladesh came out looking to first dig in and set up a solid base. In the process, they ate up too many deliveries. As the asking rate mounted and spinners tightened the screws, they turned towards cheeky singles to keep the scorecard chugging along. This resulted in two of their main batsmen – Towhid Hridoy and Aminul Islam – being run out. Those dismissals turned the game around in a jiffy as Bangladesh couldn’t quite recover from 85 fof 5. They were eventually bowled out for 134 in the 43rd over.

As well as they bowled, India’s fielding, particularly inside the 30-yard circle, was noteworthy. In the Powerplay, the packed off-side ring cut off easy singles to build pressure. Then their two most athletic fast bowlers Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti got into the act after bowling their hearts out in a fiery opening spell.

Mavi swooped in from cover point to effect a direct hit via an underarm flick to dismiss Hridoy while Nagarkoti moved swiftly to his right at backward square leg to fire a throw to wicketkeeper Harvik Desai who did the rest even as Aminul tried to dive full stretch. These two wickets in the space of 10 deliveries effectively broke Bangladesh’s back.

That Bangladesh weren’t allowed to blaze away was thanks largely to Ishan Porel, who troubled them during the course of an incisive opening spell of 5-2-8-0. Porel, playing just his second game in the tournament after recovering from a heel injury on his left foot, went through considerable amount of work before the game to be ready, and proved that the time spent on him by the support staff was fully worth it. Without bowling full tilt, he kept up the pressure by combining accuracy and bounce on a deck that offered some help for the faster bowlers if they were willing to bend their backs.

Mavi benefited from this pressure the most as Mohammad Naim holed out to Prithvi Shaw at mid-on. If Bangladesh thought Porel and Mavi’s burst had been weathered, they had Nagarkoti just warming up. With some needle in the contest courtesy some words and glances exchanged between both sides – something that had been building up from early in the game – Nagarkoti had captain Saif Hassan nick to Abhishek, who took an excellent catch diving to his left at slip. That was to be the start of Bangladesh’s slide.

India’s start was much different though. They lost Manjot Kalra early, but Gill powered them to 71 for 1 after the first 10 overs, bringing in a touch of unorthodoxy by flat-batting a pull early in his innings, and doing the early running even as Shaw wasn’t allowed to break free initially.

Shaw eventually broke the struggle by picking up his first boundary – a punch through point – off the seventh over. He would then get a release in the same over courtesy a free-hit that he biffed over mid-on to get going. Far from fluent, Shaw played within himself and would fall to a Qazi Onik delivery that would straighten from around the stumps and have him bowled for 40. Desai pushed and prodded for 34, but in doing so, put a lot of pressure on Gill, who was looking to accelerate. As well as he tried to milk the singles and bring out the cheeky dabs and tucks to the leg side, their dismissals in the space of 13 deliveries after a 74-run stand put the pressure on India’s middle order.

Riyan Parag, having his first hit of the tournament, took eight balls to get off the mark and struggled for rhythm. Nagarkoti and Mavi tried to swing their way, only to fall. This made Abhishek’s pugnacious contribution all the more vital in the context of the game. Happy to tick over runs initially, he opened up to deliver some muscular blows towards the end of the innings before being the ninth batsman out. By then, he had lifted India out of a tangle and put them firmly ahead.

Then with the ball, Abhishek would top up his batting with two wickets. The end was quite fittingly a Nagarkoti thunderbolt that sent Nayeem Hasan’s off stump cartwheeling to delirious celebration in the Indian camp. He would finish with 3 for 18 in a win that looked far too easy than it could have been at one stage.


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