No longer unbeaten, India chases semifinal spot v Bangladesh

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — When India’s players get on the bus for their World Cup match against Bangladesh, there’s one thing they can no longer take onboard: an unbeaten record.

That’s unlikely to hold back India on Tuesday at Edgbaston — two days after a 31-run loss to England at the same venue — as it seeks to join Australia in the semifinals.

India was criticized for its slow run chase on Sunday, with MS Dhoni appearing unhurried until it was too late. It sparked claims that India was already thinking ahead to the semifinals by concentrating on its net run-rate and keen to avoid losing any more wickets. India captain Virat Kohli saw it in far simpler terms, saying England’s bowlers were hard to score against.

India batting coach Sanjay Bangar defended Dhoni’s approach to the chase.

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“He was striking the ball really well,” Bangar said. “He had good intent. It’s just that the English bowlers stuck to their task really well.”

At the start of the tournament two-time champion India would have wanted to avoid hosts England in the last four — and may still think that way after the mostly one-sided defeat in Birmingham.

India is in second place and three points behind Australia, which has played one more game and is current favorite to finish atop the standings.

The No. 1 team plays No. 4 in the first semifinal at Manchester’s Old Trafford on July 9, and Nos. 2 and 3 meet at Edgbaston two days later. Location wouldn’t affect any Indian calculations as the team would get a capacity crowd in the Outer Hebrides — if it came to that — from ever-loyal fans. But if given a choice, India would likely prefer New Zealand at this stage.

That may change of course if the Black Caps batter England in their key game at Durham on Wednesday.

What India does know is that it will be without allrounder Vijay Shankar for the rest of the tournament after he fractured his toe while facing teammate Jasprit Bumrah in the nets on June 19. Shankar has been replaced by Mayank Agarwal, a top-order batsman who has played two tests for India but has no ODI experience with his country.

The key player for India remains 30-year-old Kohli. The master of the white ball, with 41 ODI centuries, has hit 382 runs in the tournament so far at an average of 63. After getting only 18 in India’s opener against South Africa, his scores in the five completed matches since then have been 82 (against Australia), 77 (Pakistan), 67 (Afghanistan), 72 (West Indies) and 66 (England).

Ominously for Bangladesh, Kohli said of his team’s loss to England: “No one likes to lose but we have to take it in our stride … We will learn from it and move forward.”

But Bangladesh won’t be too intimidated as it enjoys an impressively stable World Cup campaign with three wins, three losses and one washout.

And Bangladesh is still in with an outside chance of advancing. It has a game in hand and will go level with fifth-place Pakistan on nine points — one point behind England — if it beats India.

Pakistan and Bangladesh meet in their last group game at Lord’s on Friday in a match which could potentially offer the winners a coveted last-four place.

Before then, though, Bangladesh needs a win over India or it can’t advance.

Bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja, both handy with the bat, could be set to return for India.

“If you don’t have major contributions from the middle order then someone like Bhuvneshwar Kumar lower down becomes really important,” Bangar said. “Anyone who is handy at No. 8, and it could be Jadeja, gives you some freedom. It takes the pressure off those batting at six and seven so that they can start going at the bowling a little earlier.”

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