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Dhoni-Kaarthik give India a five-wicket victory

Written by: Staff
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Dhaka, May 10: A disciplined unbeaten 91 from Mahendra Singh Dhoni propelled India to a five-wicket victory over Bangladesh with one over to spare in the nail-biting first one-dayer against Bangladesh at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium here today.

Bangladesh lost but not before sending a few shivers down the spine. The hosts won the toss and, led by openers Javed Omar and Tamim Iqbal with some able support from Saqibul Hassan and Md Asraful, reached a commanding 250 from the allotted 47 overs after an early shower meant a truncated game.

Dhoni showed character and discipline as he fought a crippling cramp on his right hamstring to remain unbeaten on 91 runs off 106 balls with seven boundaries and guide India to victory.

The Ranchi lad's innings was a tremendous rearguard action as he held on to one end and kept rotating the strike. A cramp on his right leg when on 39 left him floored and it required John Gloster to come on to the field twice to keep the swashbuckler going. It also led Yuvraj to come in as his runner.

Initially, Dhoni began in his flashy cavalier manner, but after India kept losing wickets at the other end he checked his natural game to a more sedate innings.

He was joined by Kaarthik at the fall of Mongia.

And Bangladesh had the chance of finishing the game at that stage but for a run out chance wasted by them.

Dhoni, on 49 then and playing with Yuvraj Singh as his runner, called for a single after despatching the ball at point only to be backed out. Kaarthik who had gone half way was in no man's land. But Abdur Razzak, the bowler, floundered and a disaster for India was averted. This proved costly for Bangladesh.

Dhoni completed his half century, the 13th of his career, the next over off 67 deliveries with five boundaries and the duo went on to add 107 runs off 108 balls for the sixth wicket to see India through.

Kaarthik, who is fast gaining the reputation of the man for all seasons, nullified the spin with some handsome sweeping and straight bat drives down the ground.

If Dhoni's innings was one of valour and steely jawed determination, Kaarthik's was that of a wily run-getter, someone busy in between the wickets.

The fact that he has spent the major part of his career as a wicket-keeper gives him the advantage of reading the ball early and working it around.

He remained undefeated on 58 off 60 balls with his 50 coming off a lofted straight drive down the ground. He had only two boundaries in his innings.

India began their innings in a manner as if they were playing a Twenty20 game and not an ODI scoring 12 boundaries to reach their 50 in 6.4 overs. Opener Gautam Gambhir payed the price for his carefree game when he was caught plumb by Syed Rasel. The ball landed on a length, on the off stump line and came in and Gambhir placed his leg a touch too across. He was out for 21 off 17 balls with four boundaries.

Virender Sehwag who was more sedate till then decided he had had enough and went hammer and tongs after Rasel in the eighth over. He smashed the bowler for four boundaries in five balls that included a straight one over the bowler's head with utter disdain.

But Rasel had the last laugh. A slower delivery from the pacer deceived Sehwag. A checked off drive saw the ball being plucked inches off the turf by a diving Saqibul. An innings of 39 (7X4) that promised much fell flat. Sehwag flattered to deceive yet again.

Next man in, Yuvraj Singh never got started and was gone soon. A full length delivery from Shahdat Hossain saw him take a half hearted drive to see the ball balloon to short cover.

Three down for 63 and India were in visible discomfort.

Skipper Rahul Dravid came in with the experience of over 300 one-dayers under his belt. Immidiately, he had a quick chat with Dhoni and the duo went about collecting runs at ease without any flamboyance or fanfare. They hit the lose balls for boundaries and the better ones for ones and twos. In no time India crossed the 100-run barrier in 17 overs. The total looked achievable.

But, Saqibul had other ideas. A flighted one to Dravid saw him lean forward for a square-drive and the ball went straight down the throat of Abdur Razzak. The duo added 49 runs and India on 112 for four slipped further.

Dinesh Mongia departed after 17 runs as Saqibul continued to be a thorn in India's flesh. Mongia perished trying to drive through the covers and giving a straight catch to Aftab Ahmed. At 144 for five, India were looking down the barrel when Dhoni and Kaarthik joined forces.

Earlier, Bangladesh won the toss and elected to bat under cloudy conditions and the openers gave the team a rolicking start reaching 78 runs for the opening partnership. The innings got a late boost from vice-captain Mohammed Ashraful whose cameo of 29 off 22 balls meant Bangladesh reach the magical 250 mark in the rain truncated tie of 47 overs.

At 200 in the 41st over, 230 plus looked a decent score, but Ashrafful had other ideas. He and Aftab Ahmed rode their luck to take Bangladesh to 236 before Ashraful was bowled by Mongia for 29 that came off just 22 deliveries with three boundaries.

Aftab was the next to go caught leg before to a low full toss from Sehwag for a well made run-a-ball 16. By then 250 was achievable and Mohammed Rafique made sure that they reached there with a lusty 11. He was out to Powar on the last delivery of the innings.

The two openers approached the task in contrasting manner.

While Javed Omar was his stodgy self, defending with soft hands, Tamim went off to a flier. The only time Javed looked to force the pace was when he was given width outside the off stump.

There was no such restraint from Tamim. Despite the claims by the Indian skipper that Tamim was well studied, Zaheer Khan failed to get things right bowling to the opener's strength. Tamim began with a beautiful punched off drive past mid-on and never looked back thereafter.

Predictably Zaheer's figures after the match read none for 54 off seven overs. His poor continues from the World Cup.

It was the beefy Powar who sowed the first seeds of doubt, tossing the ball up nicely and getting a nice loop.

The breakthrough came when Dinesh Mongia, who has now spent the major part of his international career in wilderness for one reason or the other, was brought into attack from the Bank Alfalah end to replace Munaf Patel.

Mongia teased Tamim into a lofted false stroke to see the ball being caught on the ropes at long-on by Virender Sehwag with the score on 78. Tamim had made 45 from only 53 balls with six fours.

Bashar fell two deliveries later to Powar.

The Bangladesh skipper, fighting self doubt more than the opposition, tried to break the shackles early and in the process mistimed a drive to Gautam Gambhir at short mid-on. Suddenly, Bangladesh were reduced to 78 for two. Bashar was out for naught.

It was then left to Saqibul Hasan and Javed Omar (37 not out) then to take up the challenge. Bangladesh reached 100 for 2 in 24.3 overs and the bugle was sounded for the acceleration. If Javed Omar is a grafter, Saqibul is a bigtime amasser of runs. The duo got about their job of culling runs in a matured manner and reached the 100 runs of their partnership off 128 balls with Javed Omar on 51 and Saqibul on 45.

Omar was run out to a straight one from Zaheer. Soon after, Saqibul departed on 50 stumped by Dhoni to give Mongia his second wicket. Mongia saw Saqibul giving a charge and bowled one flat and wide and Dhoni made no mistake. The left-hander's innings had only two fours and came off 67 deliveries.

Mongia was the pick of the Indian bowlers with three for 49 off 10 overs and Powar got two for 54 off his allotted quota of 10.

Sreeshant, who walked off the field with a cramp after his first spell of five overs that yielded 14 runs, did not take any further part in India's bowling.

UNI

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