Kohli, Rohit set the tempo against spinners up front

CHENNAI: When Mehidy Hasan marked his run up with the new ball after Najmul Hossain Shanto opted to bowl first against India in Antigua on Saturday morning, it seemed like Bangladesh were on to something.

For starters, any team’s best chance of beating India is to let them bat first, restrict them to a below-par total on a good batting surface and then chase it down with ease. If that was one box ticked, in Antigua, Bangladesh had something else going for them. In Mehidy, Shakib Al Hasan and Rishad Hossain, Bangladesh had three quality spinners. And against Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, they had the potential to be a handful in the powerplay. So, when Mehidy took the new ball against Rohit, they were on the right track. At least, that was their plan.

But then, Rohit and Kohli knew what was coming. As much as they might not necessarily admit them publicly, they had been around long enough to know their strengths and weaknesses. They knew they could not go into a shell, a possibility. And there was only one way for them to survive without ceding any ground: attack. Attack, come what may.

That is exactly what Rohit did off the very first delivery. His first shot was a lofted drive off a flighted delivery. Four balls later, he went for it again. This time the ball took the top-edge off a slog sweep and ran to the ropes behind the keeper. In the next over it only got better; Rohit went after the more experienced spinner, Shakib. Another slog sweep, this time a well-timed one, for a boundary.

Now, one expected this from Rohit. That is how he has been batting for the last 18 months. Kohli, on the other hand, has been India’s anchor. This time, opening the batting, he has had to play a different role with little success. There was a question of whether he would once again go back to his roots and accumulate runs. Kohli, however, did something else. He wasted little time in lofting Shakib into the stands. After two overs, they were 23/0. It forced Shanto to turn to Tanzim Hasan Sakib and Kohli flicked the pacer for a boundary. Shakib continued from the other end, but Rohit did what he had been doing; went for his shots to pick up a four and six in the first three balls before getting out on the fourth. Kohli finished the powerplay with a six off Mustafizur Rahman. Three overs of pace and as many overs of spin, and India had scored 53/1 in six overs, making one wonder if Shanto should have started with Rishad. Kohli would get out to Tanzim eventually, so would Suryakumar Yadav, but that did not have much of an impact. Rohit and Kohli had stuck to the plans and set the tone despite the match-ups not favouring them.From there, Hardik Pandya took them to 196/5. Brief scores: India 196/5 in 20 ovs (Hardik 50 n.o, Kohli 37, Rohit 23) vs Bangladesh.

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