A match for experiments

AT a casual glance one might have mistaken it for the India `A' side. After all, the eleven contained so many cricketers who had toured the Caribbean with the India `A' side.

S. DINAKAR

AT a casual glance one might have mistaken it for the India `A' side. After all, the eleven contained so many cricketers who had toured the Caribbean with the India `A' side.

One of Ajit Agarkar's three victims was Mohammad Ashraful. -- Pic. N. BALAJI-

Gautam Gambhir, Abhijit Kale, Avishkar Salvi, Amit Mishra, and Sarandeep Singh were all there. Skipper Sourav Ganguly was resting a sore back and paceman Zaheer Khan was nursing a hamstring injury sustained in the competition.

Virender Sehwag led the side and Sanjay Bangar was got a game after quite a while. The match also gave the team-management an opportunity to provide some respite to Harbhajan, battling with a long-standing finger injury. Yuvraj Singh developed a slight fever on the morning of the game and this led to Kale finally making his ODI debut.

Indeed, the Indian side that took the field against Bangladesh in the fourth game of the TVS Cup was an experimental one. Some of the players were blessed with a rare occasion to display their skills and the pressure was on them to deliver.

One person who must have been under some stress was Delhi opener Gautam Gambhir. He had a fine tour of the West Indies with the `A' side, and maestro Sachin Tendulkar's absence coupled with Ganguly's declaration that he would prefer to bat at No. 3, suggested that there would be no dearth of opportunities for Gambhir in Dhaka.

But then, the left-hander had flattered to deceive in the first two games, producing some pretty strokes before giving his wicket away, his shoddy footwork a stumbling block against deliveries seaming away from him.

In the event, Gambhir's strokeful 71 (90b, 8x4) was the highlight of India's four-wicket win over Bangladesh.

India lost the toss and pursued 208 under the lights, and even if the Bangladesh attack was not really incisive, Gambhir did apply himself after Sehwag, celebrating his elevation to captaincy, had blasted a 44-ball 43.

Seeing through the new ball safely, Gambhir delighted against the spinners. He used his feet to drive and when they erred in length or provided width, was quick to cut and pull them.

It was an innings Gambhir will remember for a long while even though he missed out on an opportunity to last till the end, attempting to cut a wrong 'un from leggie Alok Kapali and paying the price.

There were strong indications before the game that Parthiv Patel would open the innings. That did not happen with Sehwag, having the captain's prerogative, preferring to open with Gambhir.

However, the little Parthiv did walk in at No. 3 and he made an impression, getting solidly behind the line of the ball, and punching it well in the point area. Just when he was looking good for a longer stay in the middle, the left-handed Parthiv too was undone by a Kapali delivery that straightened after pitching and beat his attempted sweep.

With Kapali and left-arm spinner Mohammed Rafique sending down steady spells, India did lose some quick wickets in the middle order. However, at no stage did Bangladesh threaten to win the game. Looking back, given the moderate score India was chasing, Gambhir's innings settled the issue.

In the Bangladesh innings, the experienced Habibul Bashar swept and flicked well to notch up a half-century. He is easily the most compact Bangladesh batsman, but has struggled with his form lately.

In the afternoon, off-spinner Sarandeep Singh and leggie Amit Mishra received an opportunity, and they did send down tidy spells. Sarandeep denied the batsmen width, but did not really spin the ball much, tending to release the ball from close to the stumps, denying himself the off-spinner's arc.

Mishra spun the ball away from the right-handers and Akram Khan, in particular, had difficulty, coping with the leggie, who was backed up by the brilliant Parthiv Patel behind the stumps. Mishra holds promise. However, a wrong 'un in his repertoire would make him a bigger threat. Paceman Ajit Agarkar played his part, too, scalping three.

Bangladesh crossed the face-saving 200-run mark but India managed to make it three out of three...after a few hiccups.

The scores:

Bangladesh: Mohammad Ashraful b Agarkar 7; Mehrab Hossain c Agarkar b Bangar 30; Habibul Bashar c Kaif b Agarkar 50; Javed Omar c & b Sarandeep Singh 1; Alok Kapali c Mongia b Sarandeep Singh 9; Akram Khan lbw b Sehwag 35; Khaled Mashud c Patel b Mishra 12; Khaled Mahmud c Sehwag b Agarkar 23; Mohammad Rafique b Salvi 4; Tapash Baisya (run out) 15; Tareq Aziz (not out) 3. Extras (b-4, lb-2, w-4, nb-8) 18. Total (in 49.4 overs) 207.

Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-49, 3-53, 4-78, 5-124, 6-139, 7-163, 8-182, 9-182.

India bowling: Salvi 10-0-51-1, Agarkar 10-2-36-3, Bangar 8.4-0-31-1, Sarandeep Singh 10-0-34-2, Mishra 9-1-38-1, Sehwag 2-0-11-1.

India: V. Sehwag c Tareq Aziz b Mohammad Rafique 43; G. Gambhir c Khaled Mashud b Alok Kapali 71; P. Patel lbw b Alok Kapali 27; M. Kaif (run out) 20; S. Bangar lbw b Mohammad Rafique 7; A. Kale c Khaled Mahmud b Mohammad Ashraful 10; D. Mongia (not out) 16; A. Agarkar (not out) 4. Extras (lb-1, w-7, nb-2) 10. Total (for six wickets in 42.5 overs) 208.

Fall of wickets: 1-69, 2-117, 3-164, 4-178, 5-178, 6-204.

Bangladesh bowling: Tapash Baisya 8-0-42-0, Tareq Aziz 4-0-31-0, Mohammad Rafique 10-0-42-2, Khaled Mahmud 7-0-22-0, Alok Kapali 8-1-41-2, Mohammad Ashraful 3.5-0-19-1, Mehrab Hossain 2-0-10-0.