The forecast for Wednesday in Adelaide had indeed been for some rain, ahead of India’s T20 World Cup Super 12 Group 2 match against Bangladesh. But the afternoon game between Netherlands and Zimbabwe was played out over the full course. And when India posted 184 without any interruption to their innings in the evening match, and the Bangladesh chase approached the halfway mark, it looked like a prophecy that the weatherman had likely got wrong.
However, just after Bangladesh opener Litton Kumer Das had lit up the Powerplay with some sparklingly clean, nerveless hitting, the heavens opened up around 9 pm local time. Even as the players went off the field, out came the sheets of paper with the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern revised-target calculations for rain-affected matches.
And as expected, Litton’s whirlwind 21-ball half-century had given Bangladesh a massive lead according to the DLS workings. At 66 for 0 in seven overs when the rain stopped play, Bangladesh were as many as 17 runs ahead of India. If the rain were to allow no more play, Bangladesh had already won, with the required five-over threshold to allow a completed T20 game having been crossed.
No wonder Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan was laughing at that stage. He even had a light-hearted exchange with his counterpart Rohit Sharma, even as some in the Indian dugout cautiously glanced through the all-important sheet of paper.
If another ball was not bowled in the game, Bangladesh would bag two points and move to the top of the table with six points. India would have been stuck on four with South Africa ahead of them on 5. In short, the Indian team’s chances of reaching the semifinal would have diminished as other results would have decided their fate, even if they won their final game against Zimbabwe.
Fortunately for India, the players were soon back on the field. When the rain’s intensity reduced, the groundstaff brought out the Supersopper machines and ropes to try and soak up moisture quicker from what is a fast-drying outfield. But just around half an hour since play had stopped – which is when overs began to get deducted from the remainder of the Bangladesh innings – the rain picked up again, billowing across the ground with a strong wind in tow.
Fortunately for India, the rain relented into a trickle soon, and the umpires decided on a quick 9.50pm resumption. Four overs were reduced from Bangladesh’s innings, and their target was chopped from 186 to 151. It left them needing another 85 from nine overs – the same rate at which they had scored their runs so far – with all their ten wickets intact. Skipper Rohit Sharma would sum up the prevailing mood in the Indian camp when he said after the match, “I was calm and nervous at the same time. A shortened game can go either way, especially with (the chasing side having) ten wickets in hand.”
But now Shakib’s mood had changed, and he was seen in serious discussions with the umpires.
Bangladesh were far ahead of the game, and seemed to be in no mood to risk their position, and their bodies, in such wet conditions. India, who had more chances of picking up an injury with 11 players on the field as opposed to Bangladesh’s two at any point, were itching to get going, with the fate of the game having a substantial bearing on their semi-final chances. And right away, with drops of water glistening on the grass, Litton slipped first ball after play restarted, while turning for an aborted second run. He seemed to have hurt his left hand during the fall, and was understandably a bit jittery when his partner Najmul Hossain Shanto pushed for a second run off the next delivery.
That slight hesitation would find a diving Litton short of his crease as KL Rahul scored a terrific direct hit from deep midwicket. As Litton departed in fury, at the slippery conditions, at the umpires, at his partner, at himself, for 60 off just 27 balls, the match turned on its head.
From 68 for 0, Bangladesh would slip to 108 for 6 in the space of 34 deliveries. Their attempts to slog sixes off the Indian seamers ended in mishit skiers that were superbly judged by Suryakumar Yadav, substitute fielder Deepak Hooda and Arshdeep Singh. “It was great to watch the catches we took under pressure, it shows the character of the guys. I had no doubts about our fielding ability,” Rohit said.
Hardik Pandya then gave away only a single off the last three balls of the penultimate over, and Arshdeep successfully defended 20 off the last over against the swishing blades of Nurul Hasan and Taskin Ahmed to give India a five-run win. Mohammed Shami could also have been used, but Rohit chose the 23-year old left-arm pacer for the difficult job. “For a young guy to do it so early in his international career, it is not easy. There was a choice between Shami and him, but I had to back someone who had been doing the job for the team,” Rohit said.
India will be through to the semi-finals if they beat Zimbabwe in their last group game on Sunday in Melbourne. But if they lose, they could finish tied on points with either Bangladesh or Pakistan, and net run-rate could become decisive. But India will be playing last, so they will have a clear picture of what is required.