| Man of the Match Gautam Gambhir in full flow against Bangladesh at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka Wednesday. (AFP)
Dhaka: Gautam Gambhir struck his maiden half century as India moved into the final of the TVS Cup triangular series with a four-wicket victory over hosts Bangladesh Wednesday.
The left-handed Gambhir made amends for his earlier failures with a sparkling 71 which helped India overhaul Bangladesh’s score of 207 with 7.1 overs to spare to record their third straight win in the tournament.
The Indians gave a chance to all the newcomers in the squad but still proved too strong for the struggling hosts whose winless streak extended to 35 with this defeat.
Gambhir, who had scores of 11 and 18 in the previous matches, justified the faith reposed on him by the team management to anchor the Indian run chase after stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag had given a flying start.
The Indians made life a little difficult for themselves by losing three wickets in quick succession with Gambhir, Mohammed Kaif (20) and Sanjay Bangar (7) getting out in quick succession. But Dinesh Mongia (16 n.o.), held nerves to take India home.
Earlier, Bangladesh batsmen put up a much-improved performance, courtesy a fine half-century by Habibul Bashar. Akram Khan (35) and Mehrab Hossain (30) also made important contributions.
The Indian riposte began on a blazing note with Sehwag turning on the heat with some glorious shots on both sides of the wicket.
Sehwag, leading the country for the first time after Sourav Ganguly decided to give some rest to his injured back, smashed the first ball from Tapash Baisya to the boundary while Gambhir also got into the act hitting a couple of boundaries to take India to 50 in quick time.
Sehwag singled out paceman Tareq Aziz for special treatment clobbering him for four consecutive boundaries in the eighth over of the innings. But he threw away his wicket once again when, going for a mighty heave off Mohammed Rafique, spooned a catch to Aziz at long-off. Sehwag’s 44-ball effort included eight boundaries.
Young Parthiv Patel was promoted in the batting order and joined Gambhir after the captain’s dismissal. The two youngsters played sensibly and took the team towards the victory target without taking too many risks. Both kept the scoreboard ticking at a decent rate to take the score to 117 before spinner Alok Kapali provided the breakthrough in his first over.
Kapali trapped Patel leg-before t as the batsman went for a sweep. His 27 came off 52 balls.
Bangladeshi captain Khaled Mahmud introduced both his spinners in a bid to put some pressure on the Indians but they seemed to have very little impact.
Gambhir grew in confidence and notched up his half century with a delightful square drive to the boundary off Kapali. Gambhir put on 47 for the third wicket with Kaif before both of them and Bangar were dismissed within a space of 14 runs.
Earlier, Bashar, Akram and Hossain helped Bangladesh recover after a shaky start.
Their innings began on a disastrous note with Mohammed Ashraful, the top-scorer in the last match against South Africa, returning to the pavilion with the score on 15.
Bashar and Hossain made an effort to consolidate the position but Bangar broke the partnership with his very first ball, getting rid of the latter.
The dismissal of Hossain triggered a middle-order collapse as two more wickets fell in quick succession to reduce the home team to 78 for four within the 21st over.
Bashar and Akram put on 46 for the fifth wicket — the highest of the innings — in a rebuilding exercise as they kept the scoreboard moving without taking too many risks.
Bashar attacked the loose balls and played some glorious shots, particularly against leg-spinner Amit Mishra. The right-handed Bashar pushed Mishra for a single to notch up his half century but perished soon after.
He went for a big hit but could not time the ball properly and Kaif took a simple catch at mid-off. His 50 off 94 balls was studded with five fours.
Captain Khaled Mahmud hit a breezy 23 off 27 balls to accelerate the scoring in the slog overs.
Sehwag said he would love to lead the side in the future if he was given the opportunity.
“It’s a great honour to lead the country. I am happy that I could win the first match. I will be happy to lead the team if I get the opportunity in the future,” Sehwag said after India defeated Bangladesh by four wickets to storm into the final of the TVS Cup tri-series.
“Having settled down, I should have stayed till the finish. I need to keep working hard and score runs,” Man-of-the -Match Gautam Gambhir, who struck a sparkling 71, said.