It was business as usual for India while batting second as they chased down a sub-par target of 154 with 26 balls to spare. While cyclone MAHA was expected to play a role, it was cyclone Hitman that influenced the second T20I at Rajkot. Batting like a man possessed, Rohit Sharma hit six fours and as many sixes in an innings of 85 runs off 43 balls.
Batting in his 100th T20I – the first Indian cricketer to achieve the feat – the Indian skipper revealed his intentions very early as he hit Bangladesh’s spearhead Mustafizur Rahman for two consecutive fours and a six down the ground in the fourth over of the innings. The acceleration infused by Rohit continued for the next four overs, all of which went for more than 10 runs an over.
Taking a particular liking to off-spin bowling, Rohit slog-swept the first ball of the eighth over of the innings from Afif Hossain for a six to bring his 18th half-century off 23 balls (his second fastest in T20Is). With a career average of a six per 12 balls against the off-spinners in T20Is, Rohit took hitting to another level in the tenth over of the innings. With a realistic chance of scoring yet another T20I century, Rohit pulled the first two balls from the offie Mosaddek Hossain for six and hit the third one down the ground for yet another maximum. Expecting himself to hit every ball of that over out of the park, Rohit was clearly miffed at inside edging the fourth one.
In a fourth-century partnership between the Indian openers, Rohit’s partner Shikhar Dhawan contributed 31 of the 118 runs. Playing with a clear intent, Dhawan repeatedly, mostly premeditatedly, walked down the wicket to provide impetus to his strokes, but he succeeded on only four occasions. Twice in the first over when he drove Mustafizur through the covers for four and then through the leg side that was helped by a misfield by Bangladesh’s skipper and later in the seventh over of the innings by the leggie Aminul Islam when he took him on the full to add another couple of boundaries. Aminul was the only Bangladesh bowler to add wickets to his name as he scalped Dhawan and Rohit in consecutive overs. Dhawan, down the track for the umpteenth time in the innings missed the ball and was out bowled. Rohit, doing something that seemed unlikely on the night, mistimed a pull straight to deep mid-wicket.
Shreyas Iyer continued where he left off in the first T20I as he hit the second ball he faced for a six down the ground. He followed up with three different strokes for boundaries – a leg glance, a guide off the short ball above the keeper and a punch through covers – to end up at 24* in 13 balls as India sealed the victory by eight wickets.
Winning the toss, Rohit took the obvious call of asking Bangladesh to bat. Indian paceman Khaleel Ahmed, in a mood to try different variations of the back of length balls, was hit for three consecutive fours in his first over, taking his tally from the last game until that point to seven fours in seven consecutive balls. Khaleel was then taken for six more boundaries (nine in total in the game), all of the back length balls as he ended up with figures of one for 44 of his four overs.
While both teams were lacklustre with their ground fielding, India missed actual wicket-taking opportunities. With a nag of being in the limelight for not the right reasons, Rishabh Pant had Bangladesh’s opener, Liton Das, out stumped that was overruled on replay as Pant overlooked the basic wicket-keeping rule and collected the ball over the stumps. In another stumping opportunity off the same bowler, Yuzvendra Chahal, Pant missed committing the same error while dismissing Soumya Sarkar by a whisker.
Another opportunity was gifted to Das as he skied a mistimed sweep that was dropped by Rohit at mid-on. Pant later revived himself by running Das out with a direct hit. Chahal - the only bright spot in India’s bowling attack in the first game - was the pick of the bowlers as he claimed two wickets for 28 runs. Washington Sundar, with a spell of one for 25, also helped to cease the momentum gained by Bangladesh as they could manage only 58 runs in the middle phase (overs 7-15).
Having expressed a desire and capability to be a death bowler too, Deepak Chahar unleashed his variations with immaculate precision to concede only four runs in the 19th over, dismissing Mahmudullah in the process, who played a lone hand at the end with an innings of a 21 ball 30.
With series level now, the focus shifts to the decider in Nagpur in a couple of days. While India has managed to suck the confidence out of Bangladesh after their win in the first T20I, the crucial role of the toss can once again be decisive.