For a little over half an hour on a cool, celebratory Christmas morning at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium here, India appeared in a tight, warm embrace with defeat.
Sunday started with the visitors on 45 for four, in pursuit of 145, only to be reduced to 74 for seven. Along with overnight batters Axar Patel and Jaydev Unadkat, Rishabh Pant – the biggest carrier of India’s hopes – was back in the pavilion too.
But Shreyas Iyer (29 n.o., 46b, 4x4) and R. Ashwin (42 n.o., 62b, 4x4, 1x6) calmed the nerves and soon dispelled the gloom by coming together for a match-winning 71-run partnership to secure a three-wicket win and a 2-0 series triumph.
The victory kept India in second position in the World Test Championship table, sandwiched between Australia and South Africa. Three victories from four Tests against Australia in the home series in February-March can help seal a final spot.
It helped that the negativity India’s top-order batters bred late on Saturday didn’t trickle down. Unadkat survived a close leg-before shout off Mehidy Hasan off the third ball of the day, but launched him over mid-wicket for a six the very next delivery.
But that statement of intent didn’t last long as Unadkat departed after being trapped in front by Shakib Al Hasan.
Mehidy continued to work his magic bowling a low, stifling line. Pant daringly reverse-swept Shakib for his first boundary, but was soon pinned on the crease by Mehidy and dismissed leg-before. The offie had his fifer (19-4-63-5) when Axar (34, 69b, 4x4) was bowled off the pads by a delivery that skidded through.
At that point, Shreyas and Ashwin were the last-recognised batters, with nearly half the runs yet to be scored. When Ashwin was on one, Mominul Haque grassed a straight-forward chance at short-leg off Mehidy. India was one step from hell – no offence to Mohd. Siraj and Umesh Yadav – but had somehow survived.
It was to Shreyas and Ashwin’s credit that they didn’t cower and slip into a shell. There was a phase when no boundary came for a little over 11 overs, but the duo worked the singles to chip away at the target.
The floodgates opened when Shreyas square drove Mehidy to the fence and followed it up with two fours off Shakib – inside-out over cover and a powerful pull through mid-wicket.
Shakib introduced pace in the 20th over of the day to shake things up but Khaled Ahmed strayed in line and Ashwin duly picked him for two boundaries. The end was swift as Ashwin blasted Mehidy for 16 runs in an over, including a one-handed six over deep mid-wicket and a lofted four over mid-off which was reminiscent of his winning shot against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup.
“When you have taken seven wickets for 75, you can expect the team to win,” Shakib said later. “Perhaps we could have bowled better. Maybe created more chances, especially on this type of pitch. [But] I am happy with the way we fought.”
Brief Scores: Bangladesh: 227 & 231 all out in 70.2 overs (Litton Das 73, Zakir Hasan 51; Axar Patel 3/68).
India: 314 and 145 for 7 in 47 overs (Ravichandran Ashwin 42 not out, Axar Patel 26, Shreyas Iyer 29 not out; Mehidy Hasan Miraz 5/63).