India hold nerve to justify billing as Cup favourites

India 180-5 Bangladesh 155-8 (India win by 25 runs)
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The Independent Online

Bangladesh held hopes of emulating their 2007 victory over India in the 50-over World Cup but, while they proved again their competitiveness in the shortest form of cricket, they found that the defending champions had too many weapons, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team looked a picture of unity in launching their ICC World Twenty20 campaign with a comfortable victory.

India's total owed its substance to the openers, Guatam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma, and to the explosive hitting of Yuvraj Singh, whose 41 off 18 deliveries transformed what had threatened to be a relatively modest score into something that was beyond Bangladesh.

With the ball, it was the emerging left-arm spinner, Pragyan Ojha, who was India's trump card, the 22-year-old marking his international T20 debut with four wickets.

Nonetheless, it was a night from which Bangladesh emerged with their pride intact. Indeed, until Yuvraj, the most destructive force in India's armoury, appeared at 112 for 2 in the 15th over after the title-holders had chosen to bat first, they must have been happy at the state of play.

"I don't think we are behind on skill levels now," the Bangladesh coach, Jamie Siddons, said. "Tonight the difference was probably one over against Yuvraj and one or two silly mistakes or poor decisions."

The over in question was from Naeem Islam, the off-spinner, from which Yuvraj blasted three sixes. It accounted for most of the 25 runs by which Bangladesh ultimately lost.

Rohit and Gambhir had reached 51 off only 32 deliveries and it seemed the injured Virender Sehwag would not be missed. But Shakib al Hasan, the left-armer, removed Rohit and India's progress slowed. Between the sixth over and the 16th, India advanced by only 67 runs. Gambhir, dropped on 13, reached his half-century but it was a relatively laboured effort.

But, much as the huge Indian section of a near 17,000-crowd were disappointed when Islam bowled Dhoni, they were more than compensated by Yuvraj, who helped to swell the total by 59 in the last four overs.

Bangladesh began their pursuit by threatening an upset. Tamim Iqbal took 10 off Zaheer Khan's opening over and Junaid Siddique welcomed Irfan to the attack by crashing him over midwicket for six.

But one by one, they Bangladeshis lost their wickets spectacularly. Tamim was stumped, charging Yusuf Pathan, the off-spinner; Junaid, after 41 off 22 balls, slog-swept to deep midwicket.

Most of the damage was done by Ojha, whose experience playing league cricket in Huddersfield helped him cope with a chilly night. He struck with his first ball when Shakib al-Hasan top edged a pull and, crucially, with his fifth, as Junaid fell.

Thereafter, Bangladesh's scoring dried up. Ojha claimed his third wicket courtesy of a fine, diving catch by Yuvraj at short fine leg as Mahmudullah perished, and another when Mashrafe Mortaza was bowled, finishing with 4-21.