Clean sweep

The triumphant Indian team.-PICS: AP

The margin of victory — by 10 wickets — and that too achieved with a day to spare only reiterated India’s complete dominance. Over to K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

The Indian juggernaut rolled smoothly at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium. Pitted against M. S. Dhoni’s men was Bangladesh that had its intense phases marred by inexplicable slumps.

Predictably, India defeated Bangladesh in the second and final Test of the Idea Cup series held in Dhaka from January 24 to 27. The margin of victory — by 10 wickets — and that too achieved with a day to spare only reiterated India’s complete dominance.

Zaheer Khan was the star turn for India, reaping a match haul of 10 for 149 to deflate Bangladesh’s dreams. His second innings tally of seven for 87 was the final door that slammed shut on the host’s hopes of staging an escape. Zaheer deservingly won both the ‘Man of the Match’ and ‘Man of the Series’ awards.

Zaheer’s strike-prowess incremented the earlier century-making efforts of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid as India declared its first innings at 544 for eight to gain a 311-run lead.

The host had scored 233 in its first innings and the anaemic total meant that the team never had the requisite cushion to leap forward.

Opting to bat on winning the toss, Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan got a loud wake-up call at 44 for four within the first hour. Zaheer (three for 62) and Ishant (four for 66) scythed through the top-order and Shakib had no time to sip his tea within the confines of the dressing room.

Mohammad Ashraful, the team’s mainstay who has fallen on bad times with poor form, played like a man with a gun held to his head. The Bangladesh Cricket Board officials had already spread whispers about him being axed ahead of the game and Ashraful hurried his shots. He scored just 39 as he fatally danced down to Pragyan Ojha.

Ashraful’s tenure was symptomatic of the manner in which Bangladesh performed through the match — bursts of maniacal energy sapped by long phases of free-fall. Shakib (34) too failed to stretch his cameo — he was consumed by Zaheer — and it was left to Mahmudullah (96 not out, 156b, 13x4) to drag the innings from 106 for six to a modest 233. “I missed my century but it doesn’t matter. I helped my team get a good total,” Mahmudullah said.

The Indian reply was forceful with Virender Sehwag (56) and Gautam Gambhir (68) setting a nice tempo through their 103-run partnership. Gambhir needed one more century to draw level with Sir Don Bradman for having scored six centuries in consecutive Tests but the three-figure mark proved elusive.

In a short burst of sustained short-pitched bowling, Bangladesh seamers Shafiul Islam and Shahadat Hossain forced the Indian openers to fend and perish.

Even Dravid had to thrust his bat in front of his face but luckily the edge came off a Rubel Hossain no-ball. Dravid, never a cricketer to refuse a second life, dropped anchor and cruised to his 29th Test century to equal Bradman’s tally.

Dravid (111 retd. hurt, 188b, 12x4) punched the seamers, used his feet against the spinners and remained the eternal eager-beaver for runs. Along with Sachin Tendulkar (143, 182b, 13x4, 1x6), who scored his 45th hundred, Dravid shared a 222-run partnership for the third-wicket.

Old is gold... Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar scored brilliant hundreds for India.-

The duo became the most prolific pair for 100-run partnerships with their 17th productive alliance that edged past the 16 by Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden; and Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.

Tendulkar, who initially stayed behind Dravid, enjoyed his reprieves on 27 and 53 while Raqibul Hasan wiped his butter-fingers at gully. The maestro’s second century in the series came in contrasting circumstances. If in Chittagong it was all about resusicating a top-order that had slumped, in Dhaka it was time to switch to top-gear and help India gallop.

Tendulkar undid the negative line and restrictive fields adopted by the host team and was his merry self before being aghast at the manner in which Dravid left the field. A Shahadat bouncer crashed into Dravid’s helmet and caused a fracture in the left cheek-bone and the mainstay was forced to leave. “To see a great batsman like Dravid collapse was good for my confidence,” Shahadat said. Later a string of soft dismissals including Tendulkar’s failed to stymie India’s progress. Dhoni (89, 167b, 9x4, 2x6) and a tail that furtively wagged helped the visitor get past 500 and put the match beyond Bangladesh’s grasp.

The host’s second innings was a story in two parts, of cruise and crash. Opener Tamim Iqbal’s second century (151, 183b, 18x4, 3x6) and his 200-run second-wicket partnership with a steady Junaid Siddique (55) raised feverish hopes. “We are no longer in awe,” Tamim, who played some fine shots, said.

Zaheer though had his plans for surgical incisions and with reverse-swing being an apt scalpel, the Indian spearhead prised out Tamim and Siddique late on the third day. The host’s second innings never revived on Day Four and the tail, after all its resistance in the previous outings, just withered away. “The ball was reversing and it was just a matter of being patient,” Zaheer said.

In his final spell, Zaheer needed just nine deliveries to bag four wickets without conceding a run as bats flailed, stumps cart-wheeled and India delivered its blows through pace as the pitch surprisingly held firm despite the cracks. “It was the kind of pitch on which the seamers had to deliver as there was nothing much for the spinners,” Zaheer said after Bangladesh was bowled out for 312.

Needing just two runs for victory in the second innings, Sehwag and Gambhir got there in two deliveries. There was no sweat as Shakib beat Sehwag’s bat and wicket-keeper Mushfiqur Rahim to gift two byes and it was time for the Indians to pose for another victorious group picture.

THE SCORES

Second Test, Mirpur, January 24 to 27. India won by 10 wickets.

Bangladesh — 1st innings: T. Iqbal b Zaheer 0; I. Kayes c Dhoni b Ishant 0; J. Siddique c Dhoni b Zaheer 7; M. Ashraful st. Dhoni b Ojha 39; Raqibul c Dravid b Ishant 4; Shakib c Dhoni b Zaheer 34; Mushfiqur lbw b Ishant 30, Mahmudullah (not out) 96; Shahadat st. Dhoni b Ojha 8; Shafiul c Dravid b Ishant 9; Rubel b Harbhajan 4; Extras (lb-2) 2. Total: 233.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-4, 3-13, 4-44, 5-51, 6-106, 7-127, 8-155, 9-213.

India bowling: Zaheer 19-3-62-3; Ishant 18-3-66-4; Ojha 16-1-49-2; Harbhajan 18.5-3-48-1; Yuvraj 2-0-6-0.

India — 1st innings: G. Gambhir c Mushfiqur b Shafiul 68; V. Sehwag c Mushfiqur b Shahadat 56; R. Dravid (retd. hurt) 111; S. Tendulkar c Kayes b Shakib 143; M. Vijay c Mahmudullah b Shakib 30; M. Dhoni st. Mushfiqur b Raqibul 89; Harbhajan c Mushfiqur b Shafiul 13; Zaheer c Shahadat b Shafiul 0; Ishant c Mushfiqur b Ashraful 13; P. Ojha (not out) 1; Extras (b-3, lb-6, w-1, nb-10) 20. Total (for eight wkts., decl.): 544.

Fall of wickets: 1-103, 2-146, 2-368* (Dravid, retd., hurt), 3-421, 4-436, 5-459, 6-467, 7-518, 8-544.

Bangladesh bowling: Shafiul 23-1-86-3; Shahadat 22-2-91-1; Rubel 28-1-115-0; Shakib 34-3-118-2; Ashraful 9-0-38-1; Mahmudullah 15-0-78-0; Siddique 1-0-9-0; Raqibul 1-1-0-1.

Bangladesh — 2nd innings: T. Iqbal c Dhoni b Zaheer 151; I. Kayes c (sub) b Zaheer 5; J. Siddique c Dhoni b Zaheer 55; Shahadat c (sub) b Harbahajan 40; M. Ashraful c Dhoni b Ojha 25; Raqibul b Zaheer 5; Shakib c Gambhir b Ojha 7; Mushfiqur (not out) 10; Mahmudullah c Vijay b Zaheer 0; Shafiul b Zaheer 0; Rubel b Zaheer 0; Extras (b-7, lb-5, w-2) 14. Total: 312.

Fall of wickets: 1-19, 2-219, 3-222, 4-290, 5-291, 6-301, 7-304, 8-304, 9-304.

India bowling: Zaheer 20.3-2-87-7; Ishant 15-2-50-0; Harbhajan 26-7-75-1; Ojha 22-4-77-2; Sehwag 7-2-11-0.

India — 2nd innings: V. Sehwag (not out) 0; G. Gambhir (not out) 0; Extras (b-2) 2. Total (for no loss): 2.

Bangladesh bowling: Shakib 0.2-0-0-0.