Asia Cup: Dhawan delivers when it mattered most: With scores of 5, 42 and 26 against Australia in three T20Is played Down Under, followed by scores of 9, 51 and 46* in T20I series against Sri Lanka at home and finally putting up 2, 1 and 16* in the round robin league stage of Asia Cup 2016 in Bangladesh, Shikhar Dhawan was ‘going nowhere’.
‘Consistency’ was a word seemed to be missing from his dictionary. Cricketing world was looking forward to the mega event of ICC T20 World Cup and Team India had a ‘starting problem’. They were unsure as to what the opening combination should be. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been doing the honours since the time Rohit was promoted to the top order in the Champions Trophy.
Having qualified to the Asia Cup 2016 final (without a single defeat in the league stage), Team India had to prove they were invincible in the Asian circuit.
It was a high octane game with the hosts Bangladesh sailing into the title clash ahead of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They were on the lookout for their maiden title win.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan, who was just one game away from striking back to form, chose this auspicious occasion to do so.
Playing in his 18th T20I game, he recorded his second half-ton in style which came in just 35 deliveries with 8 fours and a huge six in the 11th over of the Indian innings. The second delivery of the 11th over bowled by Shakib al Hasan was dabbed past the short-third man. The ball found its way to the boundary giving Dhawan his much deserved half-century.
Eventually Dhawan went on to score 60 runs off 44 deliveries studded with 9 fours and a six in an innings spanning 63 minutes. He was also involved in a second-wicket partnership of 94 runs in 11.1 overs alongwith Virat Kohli, who eventually remained unbeaten on 41* runs off 28 deliveries with 5 fours.
This was after losing the most prolific opener, Rohit Sharma (1) at the team score of 5 runs.
Chasing 121 runs for a win, the initial hiccup was well managed by the duo of Dhawan and Kohli and when Dhawan departed with the scoreboard reading 99 runs, Team India were in sight of a victory but there was work to be done.
When Dhoni joined Kohli in the middle the asking rate was clearly hovering around 10 an over, but with the big hitter Dhoni taking charge it all looked very simple.
At the commencement of the 14th over (the penultimate over of the match), India needed 19 runs from 12 deliveries.
The over that was bowled by Al Amin was turned to shreds by Dhoni hitting a four and 2 huge sixes. He also took a single and Kohli took three runs. 20 runs were scored off the over with the winning hit being a huge six by Indian skipper Dhoni.
Earlier, thanks to the weather-god, the match was reduced to 15 overs a side. Winning the toss, Dhoni (rightfully) decided to bowl first to avoid any weather interruption and also not to get caught in the Duckworth-Lewis web.
Unfortunately Nehra and Pandya were literally mauled by the Bangladeshi batsmen, mainly Sabbir Rehman (32*) and Mahmudullah (33*), both of whom remained unbeaten. They were involved in an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 45* runs in 3.2 overs that helped them reach the score of 120 runs for the loss of 5 wickets in 15 overs.
Ashwin, Nehra, Bumrah and Jadeja picked up a wicket each. Nehra ended up giving away 33 runs in his spell of 3 overs while Pandya gave away 35 runs in his 3-over spell.
India won the match by 8 wickets with seven deliveries to spare. This was a ‘picture perfect’ preparation by Team India for the mega event – ICC T20 World Cup.
For his batting exploits, Dhawan was awarded the Player of the Match.
Speaking to Harsha Bhogle at the post match presentation, Dhawan said, “”It”s very special, the best thing is that we won, we have worked really hard, feels good to perform at the right time. We were quite comfortable during the chase, we never felt pressure”.
Team India Director, Ravi Shastri had also a few words to say. He said, “Just told them it”s a final, enjoy it. Remember the celebrations Bangladesh did when they beat us, so just get the bloody job done. We have a good all-round side, packed with power hitters … any of them can fire. If any area we have to tighten up, it is the bowling department. Tremendous self-belief, the tour of Australia was extremely important, bouncing back to win four matches after losing the first four. I was not surprised one bit when they chased this down.”