Sehwag and India run riot
Virender Sehwag opened the World Cup in sensational fashion by smashing 175 off just 140 balls to set up India’s comprehensive 87-run win over co-hosts Bangladesh.
He blazed his way to the joint fourth highest individual score in World Cup history as India amassed 370 for four, the fourth highest total the competition has seen.
Somewhat predictably, Bangladesh never threatened to overhaul it despite a rapid start to their pursuit. The loss of regular wickets undermined their eventual total of 283 for nine.
The Bangladesh players and the majority of the voluble fans in the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka may disagree, but it all added up the most remarkable of starts to a tournament that has been eagerly awaited on the sub-continent and beyond.
For that we can thank Sehwag. His will undoubtedly be the innings for which this match will be remembered. Virat Kohli, however, deserves high praise for his unbeaten 100 off 83 deliveries.
While he enhanced his burgeoning reputation by hitting eight fours and two sixes - he went to three figures in the final over of the innings - those statistics were overshadowed by Sehwag’s staggering tally of 14 fours and five sixes.
Sehwag and Kohli’s stand of 203 in 24.1 overs - again the fourth best for the third wicket in a World Cup - was testament to their mastery of a bowling attack that could best be described as ineffective, although the Bangladeshis showed no little spirit in the field despite their rapidly worsening plight.
Nonetheless, Shakib Al Hasan's decision to bat first proved to be misjudged, to say the least.
Sehwag has built his formidable reputation around brutal strokeplay yet, while a strike-rate of 125 on a slow, low surface is rapid to say the least, one of the most striking features of his innings was the controlled power evident in his batting.
Only when his movement was severely limited after being hit on the leg - an injury which necessitated a runner - did his composure desert him, although his early aggression had forced the fielders far and wide long ago.
From the moment he swatted the first ball of the game, bowled by Shafiul Islam, through cover for four, Sehwag scored with nonchalant ease on his way to three figures of 94 balls.
If he was in any way perturbed by his role in Sachin Tendulkar’s run-out - he refused to respond to his senior partner’s call for an admittedly risky single to mid-on with the opening alliance worth 69 - it did not show, as each and every member of the Bangladesh attack was punished mercilessly for any lack of discipline on an unforgiving pitch.
With Gautam Gambhir, who made a run-a-ball 39, Sehwag put on 83 for the second wicket, and any joy in the Bangladesh camp when Mahmudullah bowled the left-hander as he tried to work to leg swiftly evaporated as Kohli joined in the fun.
Both he and Sehwag drove admirably straight - a tactic other sides would do well to adopt in conditions such as this - and even the best deliveries were worked into the plentiful gaps on either side of the wicket.
The understated manner in which Shakib celebrated Sehwag’s eventual departure - bowled via bottom edge as he attempted to force a full-length ball through the covers - contrasted with the mania which greeted Tendulkar’s departure and said everything about Bangladesh’s predicament.
Yusuf Pathan edged the last ball of the innings behind, but India’s dominance was unchallenged even while the frantic Imrul Kayes was savaging Sreesanth to the tune of 24 off an over.
Unusually, Tamim Iqbal supplied the ballast during rapid half-century stands with Kayes and Junaid Siddique, who made 34 and 37 respectively, before perishing himself for 70.
The run-rate was an admirable six an over when Tamim swung Munaf Patel low to Yuvraj Singh at midwicket, yet even Shakib’s 50-ball 55 failed to alter the perception that Bangladesh were fighting a losing cause.
The skipper holed out at deep midwicket sweeping at Yusuf before, during an ill-fated batting powerplay, Mushfiqur Rahim slapped Zaheer Khan to cover and Munaf Patel yorked Mahmudullah and trapped Naeem Islam lbw to complete figures of 4-48.
Shafiul was run out in the penultimate over attempting to pinch a single off the first ball he faced, but Bangladesh’s fate had long since been sealed.