Ajinkya Rahane oozed class in victory, refusing to run down Afghanistan after a two-day finish of the one-off Test at Chinnaswamy. “For Afghanistan, it’s just the beginning. With their bowling, they can do a bit of damage to any other team. It’s still a learning phase for them. Overall, a good performance,” the stand-in India skipper put things in perspective.
Afghanistan were all out twice in two sessions. Between lunch and tea on day two, their first innings folded for 109 in 27.5 overs. Then, in the final session, the minnows skittled out for 103 at their second dig, playing 38.4 overs. They had four single-digit dismissals — top-score 24 by Mohammad Nabi — in the first attempt and seven single-digit knocks second term.
Collectively their two innings lasted for 290 minutes. India’s victory by an innings and 262 runs felt like a walk in the park, creating enough scopes for schadenfreude mongers to deride Afghanistan’s newly-acquired Test status.
But logical assessments call for consideration for a group of boys who came to the game’s most difficult and exalted level, with very little experience in first-class cricket.
Given the gulf in class between the two sides, a hiding was expected. India have been the world’s best Test side for the past two years. Afghanistan are celebrating their baby steps. Elite cricket nations make their players Test-ready through a strong first-class structure.
When Cheteshwar Pujara, for example, made his Test debut in 2010, he had five years of first-class cricket behind him. Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi and Mohammad Shahzad, the three most experienced cricketers in this Afghanistan team, turned up for their first-ever Test, with 23, 32 and 20 first-class matches respectively in their bags. As Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons said, a lot more four-day matches and ‘A’ team tours should be the way forward for the greenhorns.
Centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay yesterday had slammed the door shut on Afghanistan, a late bowling resurgence notwithstanding. And when India made 474 in their first innings, the game was done and dusted. The visitors’ batting approach, however, remained a matter of curiosity. Mohammad Shahzad’s restlessness encapsulated Afghanistan’s jittery. He hit a four off the outside edge and collected another boundary off the inside edge. His forward movements after defensive prods almost imitated a bowler’s follow-through. Then, the portly opener decided to take on Hardik Pandya’s arm for a sharp single, finding himself a couple of yards short at the non-striker’s end.
Javed Ahmadi got the ball of the match from Ishant Sharma, which swung in late and uprooted the middle stump. Against lesser batsmen, the Indian fast bowlers, Ishant and Umesh Yadav, attacked the stumps merrily. Umesh trapped Rahmat Shah plumb in front to reach his 100th Test wicket. Ishant’s break-back castled Afsar Zazai.
Ravi Ashwin came into the attack and spun an off-break past Stanikzai’s bat to clip the bails. The Afghanistan captain had bragged about the superiority of his spinners. He had a rude awakening. The offie then accounted for Hashmatullah Shahidi with an arm ball. The Afghanistan tail simply gave in. Nabi was an exception though, as he showed application to score 24 off 44 balls. But patience eventually wore thin and Nabi perished, attempting a wild slog against Ashwin. The latter returned with 4/27 from eight overs. Ravindra Jadeja’s two scalps were sort of freebies.
Following on, Afghanistan lost their first four wickets inside seven overs, with only 24 runs on the board. Umesh’s four-over spell, during which he removed Shahzad, Ahmadi and Nabi, giving away 14 runs, rolled over the top order. And this time, Jadeja took care of the bottom half, bagging a four for 17 in nine overs. In between, Shahidi and Stanikzai put on 37 runs for the fifth wicket. For a brief period, Afghanistan dropped a hint that they were slowly adjusting to the long-form. Shahidi’s 36 not out off 88 balls had enough gumption to offer hope for the future.
For the first time a Test match in India finished inside two days. Afghanistan became only the third team to be bowled out twice on the same day in a Test. Rewind to 1953, and India had suffered the same fate against England at Old Trafford, after 21 years in top-level cricket.
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