Shreyas Iyer and K L Rahul smashed sublime half-centuries to propel India to 174 for five in the series-deciding third and final T20 International against Bangladesh here on Sunday.
It was a maiden T20 half-century for Iyer (62 off 33) and the sixth one for Rahul (52 off 35). Iyer’s entertaining knock came after he was dropped on 0.
Bangladesh skipper Mahmudullah followed the template set in the series by winning the toss and opting to field.
India made an unexpected call by dropping a bowler in Krunal Pandya for middle-order batsman Manish Pandey.
The hosts were dealt a body blow in the second over when pacer Shafiul Islam removed their skipper Rohit Sharma (2), who had made a sublime 85 in the series-levelling win in Rajkot. Rohit tried to whip a length ball but only managed to get an inside edge on to the stumps.
Rahul joined Shikhar Dhawan (19 off 16) in the middle and with both the batsmen under pressure having not made an impact in the first two games, the situation provided them an ideal platform to deliver.
Dhawan, who has found it tough to accelerate of late, got going with successive boundaries off Al-Amin Hossain. Rahul too began his innings in similar fashion, going for the aerial straight drive before punching Islam through point.
However, Dhawan could not last long after hitting four boundaries, mistiming a slog to be caught in the deep by Mahmudullah.
India once again could not get to a good start batting first, struggling to 41 for two in six overs. It would have been three down at that stage if Aminul Islam had not dropped a regulation catch off incoming batsman Iyer at backward point.
Rahul and Iyer gave a much needed boost to the Indian innings with a 59-run stand.
Rahul in full flow is always a treat to the eye and that is what the Nagpur crowd witnessed. He completed his fifty off 33 balls before getting caught at mid-off two balls later, leaving India at 94 for three in the 13th over.
Iyer, who made a sedate start to his innings, went ballistic after Rahul’s departure. He was especially brutal against the spinners and hit three sixes over long-on off Afif Hossain.
Iyer, who raced to his 50 off 27 balls, ended up hammering five sixes and three boundaries.
Rishabh Pant (6), who has copped a lot of criticism of late both for his batting and wicket-keeping, disappointed once again when the team needed him to provide the big hits. He struggled in his nine ball stay and was eventually bowled after being deceived by a slower one from medium pacer Soumya Sarkar.
Pandey (22 not out off 13), playing his first game of the series, came up with welcome boundaries in the death overs to take the total beyond 170.
With 149 being the average first innings score here, Bangladesh will have to bat really well to chase down 175.