For much of the first-day, it looked like a step-up too big for the debutants as India’s batsmen prospered the Chinnasway stadium after stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane won the toss and elected to bat first.. However, by the time stumps were drawn on day one, the Afghans had announced to the world that they belong to the format.
India were reduced to 347-6 by the end of a day which was as action packed as any.
Here, we look at the key talking points from Afghan’s debut day in Test cricket.
DHAWAN’S RARE FEAT
If Afghanistan had any hopes of making an instant impact in the Test arena, they were quickly dashed by India opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay. With the debutants’ bowlers struggling to find the right lines and lengths on a batting-friendly pitch, the openers, especially Dhawan, prospered as the runs flowed at the rate of an ODI.
Dhawan was afforded too much room at times and he wasn’t going to miss out with his favoured cut shot as he raced away to a 87-ball ton even before lunch has been taken.
That ton, Dhawan’s seventh in Test cricket, catapulted him into the record books as he became only the sixth batsmen in history to do so before lunch on day one. The left-hander became the first Indian batsman to do so and the rarity of the feat can be summarised by the fact that only two players have achieved in the past four decades.
YAMIN AHMADZAI ENTERS RECORD BOOKS FOR AFGHANISTAN
After being sent on a leather hunt by India’s openers in the morning session, Afghanistan finally had something to cheer about just minutes after the lunch interval.
Yamin Ahmadzai, who had earlier gone off the field due to some injury troubles, was back in the attack after lunch and the pacer etched himself into the record books immediately.
Dhawan flashed hard at a good-length delivery outside off-stump and could only manage a thick edge to Mohammad Nabi at second-slip who failed to grab onto the ball. Luckily for the visitors, Mohammad Nabi was alert at first slip and quickly pounced on the rebound to execute Afghanistan’s maiden Test dismissal. Just like Boyd Rankin had done so in Ireland’s inaugural Test against Pakistan last month, Ahmadzai will find his name permanently engraved in Afghanistan’s cricket history.
MURALI VIJAY COMPLETES TON AFTER RAIN FRUSTRAION
For much of the opening session, Vijay was happy to play second fiddle to Dhawan as the left-hander imposed his dominance over Afghanistan’s bowlers.
While not as ultra-attacking as his partner, Vijay kept the runs ticking only nicely and profited whenever the bowlers strayed with their lengths. The right-hander took charge of India’s innings after Dhawan’s dismissal and made sure the hosts remained in complete command with some fluent stroke-play.
However, much to the frustration of the 34-year-old, rain played spoilsport twice just as he entered the nervous 90s. He was batting on 94 when the first rain delay arrived and then, he was left stranded on 99 when it arrived for a second time shortly after.
To take a fresh guard twice after rain stoppages while nearing his 12th Test ton would not have been amusing at all for Vijay. He did however, get to the three-figure mark when play eventually resumed.
AFGHAN ADAPT AND DELIVER
Before the start of the Test, Afghanistan skipper had raised plenty of eyebrows by declaring his spin contingent better than the one at the disposal of Ajinkya Rahane.
With Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman flying high in the recent IPL, that statement did not seem that out of the ordinary. However, both the teenagers learnt the hard way that Test cricket is a world’s difference away from the limited-overs formats.
While Rashid overdid the googly and rarely bowled the traditional leg-spinner, Mujeeb struggled to find the right lines on a pitch where the ball did not spin a great deal.
Both the youngsters went at the rate of over six runs an over while the more experience Nabi was not much better either for the majority of the day. However, Afghanistan have shown they are quick learners and adapt they finally did, and how!
After the pacers had removed the openers, Rashid and Mujeeb turned on the style as they found the right lengths after all. Suddenly, edges were flying off the bat and the pitch looked full of life. Both the teenagers finally had their maiden Test wickets as India’s middle-order crumbles. From 280-1, India crashed to 347-6 as the spinners wrecked havoc.
The Aussies struggled against England’s slower bowlers and were all out for just 214 runs after being made to bat in their three-wicket defeat. England’s spin duo of Moeen Ali and Rashid Khan accounted for five of the seven top-order batsmen.
It took a 84-run stand between Glenn Maxwell and Ashton Agar to help the Aussies reach a respectable total after the damage done by England’s spinners earlier on. Ponting, who became a late addition to the coaching staff of Langer for the limited-overs matches against England, stated that the top-order needed to stand up and take more of the responsibility.
“It highlighted again the importance of our top-order batsman taking responsibility and getting some big runs,” said Ponting.
Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh had put on a 40-run partnership for the second wicket after Travis Head fell early but both the batsmen then fell in quick succession to Moeen’s off-spin.
“We lost an early wicket but I thought Marsh and Finch’s partnership looked really promising. But both of them getting out in successive overs to Moeen Ali, and all of a sudden we are behind the eight ball,” Ponting explained.
“It’s just little moments like that were someone just has to put their hand up and say ‘Right, I am going to be the man that’s going to get through here and do what my team needs me to do’ and it didn’t happen,” he added.
“These players need to be hard on themselves and work out how they can improve on a daily basis.”
The highly successful former Australia skipper remains confident that the team can bounce back strongly when they take on England in the second ODI at Cardiff on Saturday.
“It didn’t happen (Wednesday) but there is certainly enough skill and talent there to push on and win some games through the remainder of this series,” he said.
“Being on a tour in England you get four hours on the bus with the boys and I will be able to sit down with the young blokes and talk cricket.
“I love doing it.”
Afghanistan face sky-high expectations at home ahead of their historic first-ever Test match starting Thursday against India. It will be a historic moment for Asghar Stanikzai’s team when they step out for their maiden five-day outing against the world’s number one Test side.
India’s stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane won the toss and has no hesitation on batting first at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru. The Afghan’s Test bow hasn’t gone to plan so far with openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay putting up a rapid unbeaten 158-run stand before lunch was taken.
Dhawan slammed a quick-fire century in just 87 balls to become the first Indian to score a century before lunch on day one of Test match. He fell shortly after the interval for 107 (96) as he became Afghanistan’s maiden Test dismissal with Yamin Ahmadzai being the wicket-taker.
After India were on top for most of the day, Afghanistan came storming back in the final session to pick up five more wickets as the hosts ended the day at 347-6.
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