A preview of the second semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy, between India and Bangladesh at Edgbaston on Thursday.
The contrast between the histories of these two teams could hardly be starker. For Bangladesh this is their first major tournament semi-final. For India, it’s their fourth in four years. But Bangladesh deserve to be here, after a jubilant partnership between Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah propelled them past New Zealand.
India’s tournament so far has been efficient and impressive, with thumpings of arch-rivals Pakistan and the world No. 1 ranked team South Africa leaving them top of group B. But their loss to Sri Lanka showed that if you’re fearless and aggressive, you can beat them.
It was against India that ‘The Fizz’ first announced himself, starting his international career with 11 wickets in his first two ODIs to drive his country to a first ever series win against their neighbours. The Indian batsmen struggled to deal with the unique proposition Mustafizur’s fast cutters propose, but although this will be the first ODI he has played against India since that memorable series, most if not all of India’s batsmen will have faced him in the IPL, meaning he will have to rely on skill rather than mystery if he is to rattle them this time. He is more than equipped with the weapons to do so though.
You could fill a library with the words written about how good Kohli is in ODIs, but against Bangladesh he reaches another level entirely, averaging 70 in 10 matches against them. Though he’s struggled somewhat in recent months, by his own lofty standards at least, two 80+ scores in three innings this tournament, the second of which a trademark chase-marshalling knock, indicate that he’s approaching his irresistible best.
Where it could be won…
India’s hitters v Bangladesh’s death bowlers
India’s plan while batting is plain for all to see: Rohit and Dhawan take it slow, assess the conditions, and lay a platform for their hitters to explode from in the last 10 overs. But Bangladesh are coming into this game off of one of the death bowling performances of the tournament against New Zealand, helping them to restrict the Black Caps to a chaseable total. If they can produce something similar against the boys in blue, they will have gone a long way to qualifying for the ICC Champions Trophy final.
The heart says Bangladesh, but the head says India. Just.