Virender Sehwag's record with the willow indicates that he holds most bowlers in utter contempt. Yesterday he cracked the first ball of the 10th World Cup from the medium-pacer Shafiul Islam to the cover boundary off the back foot as he began his journey to a career-best one-day international (ODI) innings of 175 in 140 balls, which cemented the foundation of an 87-run Indian victory over Bangladesh. Overall, it was an ominous batting display from the favourites before next Sunday's meeting with England.
The previous 12 ODIs at the Sher-e-Bangla (Tiger of Bengal) stadium in the suburbs of the capital, Dhaka, had all ended in victories for the chasing team, but not on this occasion, after Shakib Al Hasan had inserted India. Irrespective of this being Bangladesh's happiest hunting ground, they maintained their complete lack of success against India at this venue.
On a slow pitch, the ball laboured to reach the bat. Yet Sehwag pummelled five sixes en route to his 14th ODI century before inside-edging a loose off-drive on to his stumps and limping off, having for a considerable period batted with a runner.
The 22-year-old Virat Kohli then lived up to his promise with an unbeaten 100 – his fifth ODI century – as he put on 203 runs off just 145 balls for the third wicket with Sehwag, which launched India to an impregnable total of 370 for 4. Kohli's straight driving along the turf as well as into the stands was technically superb.
In reply, Bangladesh posted an electrifying 51 runs off their first five overs, with Imrul Kayes punishing an erraticSreesanth for a 29-ball cameo of 34. He, though, became Munaf Patel's first victim, playing on, before Shakibholed out at deep midwicket after posting a better than a run-a-ballhalf-century.
As dusk approached and prayers filtered out from the loudspeakers of nearby mosques the left-handed opener Tamim Iqbal, Bangladesh's answer to Sehwag, reached 70, which included a slog-sweep for six, before Patel – the pick of the Indian bowlers with a haul of 4 for 48 – had him caught at short midwicket to leave Bangladesh on 188 for 3.
Bangladesh is among the natural habitats of the Royal Bengal tiger, and Bangladeshi cricketers like to call themselves "Tigers". But an encore of Bangladesh's eclipse of India in the last World Cup failed to materialise, notwithstanding the encouraging roars from a near-capacity crowd. At the same time, by virtue of home advantage, they remain a potential threat to all-comers.
In undivided India, Kolkata and Dhaka both belonged to the state of Bengal. The former's Eden Gardens stadium is the oldest internationalcricket venue in continuous use in the Indian subcontinent. Yet Dhaka, since Bangladesh are co-hosts of the competition (India and Sri Lanka being the other two), will stage two quarter-finals, whereas Eden Gardens' only India game was taken away from it after it failed to meet the International Cricket Council's deadline for completing renovations.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India also decided that less-than-historic venues such as Ahmedabad and Chandigarh would enjoy aquarter-final and semi-final respectively, rather than the iconic Eden Gardens, which held the 1987 final.