BENGALURU: When asked on Wednesday if his players were nervous, given that they were on the verge of becoming only the 12th nation ever to play a Test match, Afghanistan captain, Asghar Stanikzai, said he “was hearing about it (nervousness) for the first time”.
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Centuries from openers Shikhar Dhawan (107) and Murali Vijay (105) put India in firm control after they opted to bat in Bengaluru against Afghanistan, who made their Test debut. Then newest entrants to the Test cricket club showed some fight to take four wickets after a couple of rain-breaks in an extended session.
Less than 24 hours later, it was clear Stanikzai’s comments were more bluster than confidence. His team’s baptism in cricket’s pinnacle format was more molten lava than just fire. If Stanikzai wasn’t nervous, he ought to have been downright terrified by the end of the first session of this historic Test on Thursday.
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Emotions did run high in the morning just after Ajinkya Rahane won the toss. The Afghan players were handed their maiden Test caps — a bright shade of red. Speeches and formalities followed and Salim Durani, former Indian cricketer and the first Afghanistan-born Test cricketer, added nostalgia with his presence on the field.
Then, India’s openers, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, took guard and Afghanistan’s bright hopes crumbled. Dhawan set the tone, playing more in T20 mode than white-flannel cricket and quickly destroyed the confidence of Afghan spinners — especially the much-acclaimed Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi.
The lessons were brutal.
Still, there were more bright patches than the baggy reds for the visitors. Pacers Yamin Ahmadzai (2/32) and Wafadar (1/53), a touch nervous initially, frequently asked questions of India’s experienced line-up. They shared three top-order wickets between them and set up a turnaround in the final session during which India slipped losing five wickets in 32 overs for 99 runs. While the bowling did stir interest, it’s unlikely to give India a sleepless night as they ended a rain-marred day at 347/6.
Rain had interrupted proceedings twice at the M Chinnaswamy stadium even if it didn’t staunch the flow of runs. Vijay (105, 153b, 15×4, 1×6) and Dhawan (107, 96b, 19×4, 3×6) helped themselves to centuries in contrasting style. Dhawan became the first Indian batsman and the sixth overall in Test cricket to score a century before lunch on the opening day of a Test. Local hero KL Rahul, who was in fine nick, failed to convert the start and was dismissed for 54 (64b, 8×4).
The talk of the Afghan spinners troubling Indian batsmen amounted to just that in the first two sessions as their trump cards Rashid and Mujeeb Ur Rahman struggled. The openers bludgeoned 40 runs off the first eight overs when Stanikzai turned to spin. Nabi was pressed into the attack, but Dhawan’s quiet aggression only became a riot.
The left-hander secured a lucky reprieve when on 24. In the 10th over, the Afghans went up in unison for a caught behind off Wafadar. The umpire turned down and the close-in fielders urged Stanikzai to review, but the skipper preferred not to. Replays suggested there was a faint edge.
Dhawan though became Ahmadzai’s maiden Test victim when he attempted to drive a full one from the pacer. The edge flew to Rahmat Khan at second slip, who in turn fumbled and flapped at the ball. Nabi, at first slip, completed the catch.
With rain interrupting Vijay’s innings twice and he was stuck on 99 for a while, but after registering his 12th Test century he fell leg before to Wafadar. Rahul followed in the next over, as he played a Ahmadzai delivery onto his stumps.
Rahane (10) and Dinesh Karthik (4) did not contribute much, while Cheteshwar Pujara (35, 52b, 6×4) was looking good before he was sent back by Mujeeb.
As the ball wore, Rashid (1/120) switched gears. With the ball gripping, he bowled wicket-to-wicket. His opening 12-over spell yielded 82 runs while his last spell figures read 9-2-15-1. The Afghans held sway in the final session setting the stage for an exciting Day 2.
Source : timesofindia