Bengaluru: The action at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru at the end of the opening day of the one-off Test between India and Afghanistan didn’t quite match the words of visiting skipper Asghar Stanikzai when he said that his spinners were better than the ones India had in their Test outfit. Making hay on a greenish pitch, the Indian batsmen, led by the destructive Shikhar Dhawan (107). However, late wickets helped Afghanistan storm right back into the match as the hosts finished on 347/6 at stumps.
Earlier, Ajinkya Rahane won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first on a wicket which seemed to be tailor-made for the Indian batsmen. And the opening duo of Dhawan and Murali Vijay ensured that they repaid the faith shown by their stand-in skipper. While Dhawan dealt in boundaries, Vijay took his own sweet time to get going. The fact that he had little game time coming into the Test meant that he even missed the regular clips off his toes. But that didn’t deter the opener as he was ready to buy time with Dhawan bludgeoning one ball after the other. After the first spell from pacers Yamin Ahmadzai and Wafadar, it was all about pouncing on the bad balls from the Indian batsmen and there were quite a few on offer from the inexperienced bowlers in their first Test.
In fact, it looked like Dhawan was clear that he didn’t want the Afghanistan bowlers to settle down after the ball lost its initial shine. He made the most of the butterflies in the stomach of the visiting bowlers as he was severe against Rashid. He took the leg-spinner to the cleaners from the word go and the expectation back home also seemed to get to the youngster as he kept pitching them short and wide. And every time he pitched them up, Dhawan danced down the track to send the ball flying into the stands.
The hosts went into lunch with the score reading 158/0 with Dhawan batting on 104, having become only the sixth batsman in the history of Test cricket to complete a century in the first session of play. Vijay was playing the perfect second fiddle on 41. The Afghan bowlers looked like they had been handed a rude awakening after all the build-up leading to their inaugural Test.
Coming back after the lunch break, Wafadar finally got Dhawan, having failed to review a decision when Dhawan was batting on 23 and the ball seemed to have taken a feather touch going into the keeper’s gloves. The Afghanistan players did rise in appeal, but they didn’t have the courage to go for the DRS. But this time, it was a clean dismissal as Nabi completed an easy parried catch in the slip cordon.
But Afghanistan’s joy was short-lived as KL Rahul joined Vijay to build another partnership and while the scoring rate had slowed down considerably, the regular singles combined with the boundaries meant that the Indian batsmen were never under pressure. Rain interrupted play in the later stages of the post-lunch session and early tea was taken. Rahul and Vijay came back strongly after the break as Vijay brought up his 12th Test ton with a boundary in the post-tea session. The two put on 112 runs for the second wicket before Wafadar sent back Vijay (105) shouldering arms to a delivery that came in slightly after pitching. Rahul, who had just completed his fifty, also left soon after as Ahmadzai got him to chop one onto the stumps.
After that, it was another show of stoic batting from Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara as the two made the Afghanistan bowlers sweat it out. And after a brief partnership between the duo, Rashid finally picked up his first wicket in the longest form of the game as he removed Rahane for 10.
Pujara was the next batsman to depart as he became Mujeeb’s maiden Test scalp for 35. Dinesh Karthik’s too didn’t last long as he was run-out for 4. Hardik Pandya and Ravichandran Ashwin then played cautious cricket as the hosts didn’t suffer any further hiccup in the day.