Afghanistan‘s inaugural Test against India had a lot riding on it. It was seen as the next step in the super-charged rise of Afghanistan in international cricket and also the third installment of ‘minnows’ challenging the big boys at the international stage.
Ireland challenged Pakistan in their first Test in Dublin, losing by five wickets after threatening to turn the tables. Thereafter, Scotland stunned world No1 ODI team England by six runs after scoring 371-5 in Edinburgh.
Afghanistan were expected by many, including this writer, to challenge world No1 Test side India in Bengaluru but they ended up capitulating inside two days in one of the most one-sided matches in the 21st century.
So why were Ireland competitive against Pakistan while Afghanistan’s failed to reach the half-way point?
The pitch for the Dublin Test was just what Ireland needed to remain in the match against Pakistan. The wicket had just about enough grass to keep their quicks interested without giving too much of an advantage to Mohammad Amir and Co. And then it flattened out enough for Kevin O’Brien to score a superlative century.
India completely negated Afghanistan’s spin threat by playing the Bengaluru Test on a true pitch that had good pace and bounce, keeping fast bowlers in the hunt. Had it been a dustbowl, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman could have been deadly.
Pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav moved the ball at good pace and got enough purchase from the wicket, which was too much for the debutants.
When Ireland prepared for their Test bow, they had more first-class experience than Pakistan. The combined first-class tally of the Irish team amounted to 1103 matches, which was more than that of Pakistan – 799 matches.
Compare that to Afghanistan who gave limited-overs star Mujeeb ur Rahman a Test cap while knowing he hadn’t played any first-class game.
Ireland’s players have spent years in first-class cricket and the county circuit, which helped them maintain pace in a Test match while Afghanistan struggled to slow the game down when India gained the upper hand.
Afghanistan played the No1 Test team in the world. And India have become the No1 team because they have been consistent and clinical for a couple of seasons. Even though India were without regular captain Virat Kohli, keeper Wriddhiman Saha and Mohammed Shami, the rest of the line-up has been playing quality Test cricket and knows how to get back on its feet quicker than other teams.
Pakistan are mercurial at best in Test cricket and they went into the tour of England and Ireland with a limited-overs side hoping to get them acclimatised to conditions of next year’s World Cup in England. That reduced the gap between the two teams in Dublin.
Afghanistan were shown no mercy by world No1 team India as Test cricket’s latest entrants lost their inaugural match by an innings and 262 runs inside two days in Bengaluru on Friday.
The Indians made 474 in the first innings at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and the Afghans were then bowled out for 109 in 28 overs with India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picking up 4-27. In the second innings, the Afghans managed only 103 after Ravindra Jadeja picked up four scalps and pacer Umesh Yadav three.
There were quite a few firsts in the Bengaluru Test, and they don’t make for good reading if you are a fan of Afghanistan or Test cricket:
India bowled out Afghanistan twice in a day as they secured victory by an innings and 262 runs. It was the 21st time a Test had finished inside two days and the fourth instance of a team being bowled out twice in a day. Afghanistan’s batsmen were all at sea against India’s pacers and spinners. Captain Stanikzai said his players can only improve from here.
“We were surprised by how quickly things ended because we are a good team,” Stanikzai was quoted as saying by AFP.
“Test cricket is totally different from T20 and one day matches. But this was good for us and good for the future. We have a lot of time and we will work on our weaknesses” he added.
Afghanistan were expected to put up a better fight, with Stanikzai earlier declaring his team has better spinners than India. But the visitors were not match for Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who picked up five and six wickets respectively.
Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons said the team needs to see the Bengaluru Test as part of the learning curve.
“The learning curve is huge, it’s a mountain to climb. But they want to succeed and they work very hard but now we know that we have to work five times as hard,” Simmons said. “I believe we will get there.”
India skipper Ajinkya Rahane too believes Afghanistan will only grow stronger from their opening experience.
“The more and more they play, they will learn. It’s just the beginning for them,” Rahane said.
“You cannot blame them. They tried their best. Test cricket is all about attitude and patience and they have been playing a lot of T20 cricket. With their bowling they can damage any team. They need to learn with their batting. If two or three guys can bat for a long period then they can be a decent side.”