With six wickets for seven runs, the best figures in T20I cricket recorded by Deepak Chahar, helped India register a 30-run victory against Bangladesh in the third T20I to win the series 2-1. The margin of victory does not paint the clear picture of a hard-fought contest that had Bangladesh in the ascendancy after the 12th over mark of the chase. Bangladesh’s find of the series – Mohammad Naim – hit a breathtaking 48 ball 81 to keep Bangladesh’s hopes alive for a better part of the chase.
Chasing a stiff target of 175 on a surface at Nagpur slightly on the slower side, Deepak Chahar shook their ship early on with two wickets in one over (third over of the innings). With as many as four instances of them losing two wickets off consecutive balls, the pattern began with the wickets of Liton Das and Soumya Sarkar in the third over.
After restricting the visitors for 18 for two after five overs, Naim’s counter-attack and the effect of dew turned the tables on India. After a sedate start, Naim cut lose with three consecutive boundaries of Yuzvendra Chahal’s first over. The gamble of opting to play with only five bowlers, as Manish Pandey replaced Krunal Pandya, began to prove costly as the rookie all-rounder, Shivam Dube, was attacked from the get-go.
Naim, ably supported by Mohammad Mithun (who replaced Mosaddek Hossain in Bangladesh’s XI), milked the Indian bowlers for 88 runs in seven overs (overs 6-12). Dew played an important role as Chahal and later Washington Sundar did not find any assistance from the track as Naim and Mithun attacked them with at least one boundary in every over. The young duo did not hold themselves back from taking the riskier options either as they came down the track to hit two and one six respectively during this phase.
Contrary to his role in his T20 career so far, Chahar was earmarked to ball in death for this match. With the match slipping away, Rohit turned to him. With 69 runs needed in the last eight overs, inexperience took over for Bangladesh as Mithun tried an expensive shot to gift a dolly to long-on off the last bowl of Chahar’s over. The game then turned on its head as Dube, after getting hit for 24 in his first two overs had Mushfiqur Rahim played on for nought in the first ball of the next over.
Bangladesh then lost six wickets for 18 runs. Good got better for Dube as he bowled the well set Naim by a yorker and induced a leading edge of Afif Hossain back to him off the very next ball. Chahal then bowled Mahmudullah to earn some respite on an expensive day. Chahar had Shaiful Islam caught at long-on off the last ball of this third over (18th of the innings). He wrapped up the match in the next two balls of his next over to earn himself a hat trick along with the record.
With an armoury suited to bowl at any phase of the innings, Chahar is soon becoming an important cog in the wheel for India’s World Cup squad. Proactively suggesting a desire to bowl at the death last month, Chahar’s spell was the difference between the two sides at the end. A rarity in T20 cricket, Chahar, a bowler ended the series with Man of the Match and Man of the Series accolades.
India could not have asked for a better platform to prepare themselves for the big event. Their batting hero in the last game, Rohit Sharma played on in the second over. Shikhar Dhawan, after playing a series of flicks and pull shots was held out in the last over of the powerplay.
Struggling with his place in the Indian team in all formats, KL Rahul batted with an improved mindset. On a pitch that appeared on the slower side after the first couple of overs, Rahul hit seven well-timed boundaries to score his second fifty this year.
The most heart-warming batting performance, however, came from the blade of Shreyas Iyer. After getting a chance early on with a drop on nought, Iyer took his time to reach nine off 12 balls. He then cut loose to clear the longish boundary at Nagpur five times that included three consecutive sixes of Afif Hossain to score a career-best 62 off 33 balls. With India missing a player with six-hitting ability in the higher middle order for some time now, Iyer’s striking in this series is noteworthy. Manish Pandey applied the finishing touches with a quick 13 ball 22 to help India put on an above par first innings total.
The target was well in sight for Bangladesh after what Rohit himself termed as one of the best comebacks by this team. Chahar’s brilliance and Dube’s composure helped India avoid their first-ever loss in a decider of a three-match series at the home soil. With 26-odd games before the World Cup begins next year, the usual suspects in the squad are becoming increasingly clear.