Afghanistan's nightmare Test debut against India ends in two days at Bengaluru

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Ishant Sharma celebrates the wicket of Afsar Zazai . Image: BCCI.

Afghanistan‘s Test debut ended in emphatic defeat as India won by an innings and 262 runs inside two days in Bengaluru.

India resumed on 347 for six on Friday following centuries from openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay on a rain-hit opening day and, largely thanks to 71 from Hardik Pandya, amassed a further 127 runs to push their score up to 474.

Afghanistan struggled to respond at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and were forced to follow on after being bowled out for just 109 inside 28 overs, with India all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin taking four for 27.

They managed only 103 in their second innings as four wickets from Ravindra Jadeja and three from Umesh Yadav helped ensure the historic one-off encounter, scheduled for five days, ended prematurely.

Ashwin was the first man out on Friday after he became Yamin Ahmadzai’s third victim and Jadeja soon followed when he was caught by Rahmat Shah off the bowling of Mohammad Nabi.

Pandya, who had resumed on 10, hit 10 boundaries to boost India’s score but after he was caught off a Wafadar delivery, Ishant Sharma was trapped lbw by Rashid Khan to end an impressive innings from the superior hosts.

Afghanistan’s task became increasingly difficult after they lost Mohammad Shahzad, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat and Afasr Zazai inside their opening 10 overs for just 35 runs.

Ashwin then clean bowled visiting captain Asghar Stanikzai and trapped Hashmatullah Shahidi lbw, before removing the tourists’ top scorer Nabi for 24 as Afghanistan’s batting order collapsed.

Despite an unbeaten 36 from Shahidi, Afghanistan’s struggles continued in the second innings as the pace of Yadav ripped through their top order by dismissing Shahzad, Ahmadi and Nabi, before the spin of Jadeja and Ashwin completed the rout.

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Rashid Khan and Afghanistan squad celebrate Eid Al Fitr before second day's play against India

Denzil Pinto 15/06/2018
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Rashid Khan greets his team-mates at the stadium. Picture: BCCI

Before a ball was bowled on the second day of the Test match against India, Afghanistan players celebrated Eid Al Fitr at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium.

In a picture shared by the BCCI, India’s governing body for cricket, Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Shahzad, and other members greeted each other on the field, wearing traditional Afghani attire. Before they arrived at the venue, the entire touring squad visited a local mosque in the morning.

Afghanistan are playing in their first-ever Test match after being awarded Test status last June.

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Afghanistan's long journey from the hull of a helicopter to Test match in Bengaluru

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You would struggle to find a bunch of a cricketers with a more perilous journey to the international arena than Afghanistan.

The current group of Afghanistan players picked up cricket in refugee camps in Pakistan as cricket mushroomed either side of the Durand line that divides Afghanistan and Pakistan during the prolonged period of turmoil and violence in the central Asian country.

Players like Mohammad Shahzad and Mohammad Nabi featured regularly in Pakistan’s domestic matches and local leagues in Peshawar. Conditions back home were far from ideal. In fact, when they returned to Kabul after the war ended, the team used a grounded helicopter for a makeshift dressing room as there was simply nothing else around.

“We used to sit inside that grounded helicopter because it used to rain all the time. Now, we have a stadium there (Kabul),” the Afghanistan team’s then media manager Bashir Stanikzai was quoted as saying by the DNA newspaper.

In 2009, Afghanistan gained ODI status and within a decade of their rise to the international stage, the Afghans were granted Test status.

What has set Afghanistan apart from other cricketing regions is the fact they are the only nation that actively picked up the sport without any intervention from the British.

Afghanistan’s first cricket body was formed in 1995 in the refugee camps in Peshawar. Cricket, in fact, is the only sport that was ‘approved’ by the previous regime in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. From there, the game flourished and we have now reached the stage where Afghanistan will not only take on world No1 India in one of the most historic venues in the world – M. Chinnaswamy Stadium – but will get to play against every team visiting India.

For a team that started its cricketing journey in a refugee camp two decades ago, Afghanistan have come a long, long way.

As Afghan fast bowler Hamid Hassan, quoted by ESPNcricinfo, said: “I have seen people die and not shed a tear. But there is something about cricket that gets me in my heart.”

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