DAMBULLA: India’s quest for the Asia Cup got off to a perfect start with the title contenders steamrolling Bangladesh by six wickets in a lop-sided match and also pocketing a bonus point on Wednesday.
Virender Sehwag emerged as India’s unlikely bowling hero with his first four-wicket haul, while his Delhi teammate Gautam Gambhir (82) struck his 20th ODI half-century as India cruised to a facile win at a strikingly empty Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium.
Having skittled out Bangladesh for a meagre 167 inside 35 overs, India had a modest total to chase and they overwhelmed the target with 19.2 overs to spare to collect a bonus point from this resounding victory.
The Indians will have to beat either Pakistan (June 19) or defending champions Sri Lanka (June 22) by a convincing margin to qualify for the June 24 final.
India injected artificial life into the lop-sided match when Virat Kohli (11) and Rohit Sharma (0) fell to successive deliveries from Shakib Al Hasan in the 15th over.
However, Gautam Gambhir (82), who enjoyed a reprieve at 48 off Shafiul Islam, and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (38 not out) ensured that four-time champions sailed home without much ado.
Sehwag (11 off 14 balls) failed to fire as a batsman on his return to international from injury but amply showed that he could be employed as an off-break bowler when either Harbhajan Singh or Ravindra Jadeja have a lean day.
Given the ball as Dhoni desperately needed a part-time bowler to cover up for an injured Ashish Nehra (2 for 28), Sehwag struck successive blows to decimate a listless Bangladesh.
He had Mushfiqur Rahim caught behind by Dhoni before picking up the scalps of Suhrawadi Shuvo, Shafiul Islam and Syed Rasel. His brilliant figures read 2.5-0-6-4.
Bangladesh, who took time off from their series against England to participate in the four-nation cup, disappointed as a batting unit.
Sitting pretty at 59 for one in 10 overs, they inexplicably lost nine wickets in 24.4 overs, barely adding 98 runs during their struggle at the square.
Opting to bat, Bangladesh got off to a brisk start with Tamim Iqbal (22) and Imrul Kayes (37) producing 35 runs in 17 balls. But once Tamim perished to a low catch by Suresh Raina at short extra covers off Praveen Kumar, they just could not force the pace against a disciplined Indian attack.
Zaheer Khan bowled with verve and zip while moving the ball disconcertingly to the bewilderment of Kayes and Mohammad Ashraful (20).
The left-arm fast bowler conceded 16 runs in his first over but had the batsmen in spot in the rest of his five-over spell.
Nehra struck twice in four overs before he limped off the field after four overs. Intriguingly, there was no clarification from the Indian team management about Nehra’s fitness.
Harbhajan and Jadeja too bowled impressively in conditions that suited them but it was part-time tweaker Sehwag who stole the bowling honours.
Kayes, who mishit Nehra to Sehwag at short square, top-scored with 37. There were contributions from Mushfiqur Rahim (30) and Mahmudullah (23) but they weren’t substantial enough to augment Bangaldesh’s total, which India devoured without plenty to spare. (PTI)