There was a rare occurrence in Birmingham. In contrast to just about everything else in the past year, the pundits were proven correct. India cruised to victory over Bangladesh just as the polls predicted and they now make their way down to London for the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan on Sunday.
The Oval will be bursting with vibrant supporters of both sides while every television from Mumbai to Multan will surely be relaying the action to the devoted millions of fans back home. It should be quite an occasion here and there.
There was also a buzz at Edgbaston, but not much tension since the passage of India into the final was stately and untroubled. The old order was calmly confirmed as India won by nine wickets with 59 balls to spare. This was an emphatic, stress‑free victory for Virat Kohli’s side. On an enticing batting pitch, where the bounce was more generous and predictable than in Cardiff, the target of 265 was nowhere near enough.
Rohit Sharma hit a dreamy century in which just about every delivery landed upon the middle of his bat and after Shikhar Dhawan had offered another of his D’Artagnan impersonations, Kohli, also relishing this batsman’s paradise, suggested that he is in sublime form and notched his 8,000th one-day international run in the process. As in the Cardiff semi on Wednesday it was all too easy to be a riveting spectacle and the gulf between the two sides on view was immense.
If the result was predictable, one of the architects of the victory was not. Kedar Jadhav is a 32-year-old batsman from Maharashtra who has finally worked his way into India’s one-day international side. His occasional off-breaks might have the coach of a park XI grimacing. They are slung down with a low arm at odds with all the manuals; there is no sign of flight nor spin; importantly his deliveries do not bounce much either.
Until Thursday Jadhav had taken nine wickets in his 104 List A matches and one in first-class cricket (after 74 games). Yet it was he who took the wickets of the only two Bangladesh batsmen to threaten India’s composure, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim. In six overs Jadhav took two for 22; Ravi Ashwin, the best off‑spinner in the world, had figures of none for 54 from his 10. What a daft game.
It is unlikely that the analysts or the batsmen will have spent much time studying Jadhav in their preparation but somehow he was the man who stalled Bangladesh after they had been put into bat. Jadhav obviously deserves some credit for that; so too does captain Kohli, who recognised that he had a surprisingly potent arrow– or dart given how Jadhav propels the ball – in his quiver.
Bangladesh had recovered from a dodgy start by the time Jadhav was introduced. Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman both succumbed in Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s opening spell. But Tamim and Mushfiqur restored the situation with a polished century partnership. Tamim was in relatively restrained mode having been especially watchful at the start; Mushfiqur found the gaps deftly. Three hundred-plus was a reasonable expectation when Kohli tossed the ball to Jadhav.
The part-time off-spinner did not appear to pose a threat. He sent down a couple of long hops but the batsmen, to their exasperation, failed to find the boundary. This was the secret of his success. Soon Tamim pulled another long hop straight to midwicket for no run; a cover drive from a half-volley went to extra cover; no run. For the first time Bangladesh’s opener, who has been so prolific in this tournament, lost his composure. He attempted a leg-side heave, missed the ball and was bowled.
It was not long before Mushfiqur was similarly infected. He had watched Shakib Al Hasan fall, expertly caught behind by MS Dhoni off Ravindra Jadeja, and he tried to regain the initiative – against Jadhav. A leg-side swipe, ugly by the high standards set by Mushfiqur, ended in the hands of Kohli at midwicket. The damage had been done.
Mashrafe Mortaza did his best at the end yet the last 10 overs produced just 57 runs; Kumar could not be collared but most impressive was Jasprit Bumrah, another non-Test bowler, but a far more serious one than Jadhav. His variations frequently flummoxed the tail.
Such was the assurance of Sharma and Dhawan at the start of India’s response that it became even clearer that Bangladesh’s total was utterly inadequate. The ball came on to the bat oh so sweetly and then it disappeared at a faster rate. Sharma caressed the ball around Edgbaston without a care in the world; so too did Dhawan until he sliced a drive against an increasingly beleaguered captain, Mortaza.
Bangladesh did not bowl particularly well. But even if they had, it is very doubtful whether India would have been troubled. Sharma continued to purr along and Kohli was quietly majestic and in no mood to allow any palpitations in the Indian dressing room. His team have earned a reputation for being formidable in tournament cricket, which may be the next ambition for Eoin Morgan and his not-so-merry men still smarting from that drubbing by Pakistan. India calmly kept that reputation intact.
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