Yuzvendra Chahal deserved his first wicket on Thursday long before he actually claimed it. He had thoroughly deceived Liton Das in his first over, the batsman stranded out of his crease, swiping at thin air, looking silly.
All that was left was for the wicket-keeper to complete what are frequently referred to as the formalities. Except these things are not always guaranteed; nothing is. Rishabh Pant had gathered the ball in front of the wicket, contravening Law 27.3.1, and so the umpire called no-ball. And on Das batted.
The free-hit went for four, as did the ball after. Insult to injury. At the end of that over, Pant walked over to Chahal, stretching out a hand in apology. Chahal patted him on the back of the head, as if to say 'it was OK.'
He knew he was not done yet. Over these two matches, Chahal has been the best bowler on show by a distance. He has been India's biggest threat with the ball, Rohit Sharma's primary wicket-taking weapon. In the second T20I, Soumya Sarkar and Mushfiqur Rahim joined each other at the wicket at 83 for two in the 11th over. The game hung in the balance at that stage. Bangladesh had a platform to build on, and a good partnership could have pushed the total close to 180.
Then Chahal intervened, removing both batsmen in the space of six balls, a double blow that crippled Bangladesh. Afterwards, the visiting captain, Mahmudullah Riyad, was asked if Sarkar and Rahim had been to eager to attack Chahal. Would they have been better off playing him out and going after the rest? "It was not that we were trying to dominate Chahal," he said.
"The way Mushi got out (slog-sweeping), that is one of his strong shots. We know that Chahal is their strike bowler. In the middle overs we didn’t think about whether he was a strike bowler or their main bowler. We were thinking about how little risk we can take against him or find a gap. We didn't bat against him with a negative mindset."
Washington Sundar, whose own role in throttling Bangladesh in the middle overs was crucial, discussed the job he and Chahal had carried out. "We did a very good job in the middle overs to pull things back," he said. "After the first 6-7 overs it looked like they would get close to 170-180, but it was important for us to pick wickets in the middle overs while taking the pace off the ball."
Sundar was full of praise for Chahal. "He bowls in the middle overs, takes 2-3 wickets and changes the dimension of the game completely,” he said.
“He is very experienced in this format and he knows what to do to get wickets in the middle overs. The way he changes his pace — he knows what the batsman will try and do and which batsman is going to hit where. Different batsmen will have different plans but he is very clever. He knows what to do; he is very calm and composed.”
That composure came to the fore on Thursday. It is one reason why India will travel to Nagpur with the series still alive.
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