Sehwag and Kohli sink Bangladesh

50 overs India 370 for 4 (Sehwag 175, Kohli 100*) v Bangladesh

With a withering drive off the back foot, Virender Sehwag slammed the first ball of the 2011 World Cup to the cover boundary and, silencing a boisterous Mirpur crowd, recorded his maiden one-day international century against Bangladesh. He and Virat Kohli, who justified his captain’s decision to leave out Suresh Raina with a century of his own, gave evidence of the havoc India’s batting line-up can create, as Bangladesh’s bowlers failed to maintain composure in the grandest match of their lives.

There was wisdom in Bangladesh choosing to chase – the previous 12 day-night matches at the Shere Bangla were won by the team batting second – but the bowlers offered abundant scoring opportunities on a slow pitch that kept low and had loopy bounce not conducive to shot-making. Shakib Al Hasan had said he wanted keep India below 260 when he put them in because of the dew factor later in the evening. He watched the target swell past that as Sehwag and Kohli dismantled the attack in front of a shell-shocked crowd.

Sehwag bookended the tournament’s first over, from Shafiul Islam, with powerful drives to the cover-point boundary. Shafiul was guilty of giving Sehwag too much width, and in his second over he erred by straying twice on to Sachin Tendulkar’s pads, and watched one ball disappear behind square and the other in front. His day would not get better and he conceded 69 off seven. In between Shaiful’s first two overs, Rubel Hossain conceded two boundaries as well, and India raced to 36 after four.

Shakib turned to his premier spinner, Abdur Razzak, in the fifth over and he brought a semblance of control over the run-rate. Razzak looped the ball into Sehwag from round the wicket, following the batsman and cramping him for room as he tried hit inside out through the off side. Sehwag had scored 12 off his first six balls and 13 off his next 24.

Bangladesh were listless, though, as Sehwag regained his touch and drove the first ball off the bowling Powerplay to the long-on boundary, before finally making powerful contact with an inside-out drive. And then they had some good fortune. A mix-up, during which both Tendulkar and Sehwag were ball-watching, left both batsmen at one end and the Mirpur crowd found its voice again.

Sehwag, however, continued piercing gaps and hit the tournament’s first six by hoisting Razzak over wide long-on to bring up his half-century off 45 balls. With his regular opening partner, Gautam Gambhir, Sehwag added 83 to build on the opening stand of 69. But while Sehwag used muscle on a sluggish surface, Gambhir played with surgical precision, dabbing, pushing and chipping into gaps to score at a run-a-ball without fuss. His dismissal for 39, bowled after missing a straight one from Mahmudullah, brought the crowd to life momentarily.

The stand out feature of Kohli’s innings was his driving. On a surface this slow, he got to the pitch of the ball, gathering momentum with a forward thrust of his body, and drove the ball crisply through the off side with a whip of his wrists. He did it repeatedly against pace and spin, scoring effortlessly at more than a run a ball.

In the 32nd over, Sehwag reached his century off 94 balls with a nudge through midwicket. In the 33rd, Kohli drove Naeem Islam twice to the cover boundary and pulled him behind square as well. India took the batting Powerplay soon after the mandatory ball change and began to toy with the bowling. They would the boundary at will, the inside-edges missed the stumps and the lofted mis-hits fell into gaps. India scored 48 for 0 during the last block of fielding restrictions.

At one stage in seemed as though Sehwag, who had Gambhir running for him because of an injury, had a shot at a double-century. He ran out of steam, though, in the 48th over, almost making good his pledge to bat through the innings.

Kohli, however, moved seamlessly towards a hundred in his first World Cup match. He got there off the penultimate ball of the innings and leapt in celebration, possibly having secured his spot for the rest of the tournament.


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