On Thursday, the first day of India’s one-off Test against Bangladesh in Hyderabad unfolded as you would expect. Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat before he went on to make his 16th Test match century. India finished the day on 356 for three as they weathered swing movement early on in the morning to put themselves in a commanding position. There is a ruthless inevitability about watching Kohli’s India bat, and it is the captain himself that is at the centre of that.
This match has been a long time in the making. It is more than 16 years since Bangladesh played their first ever Test against India in November 2000. Javagal Srinath took the new ball with a fresh faced debutant called Zaheer Khan. Bangladesh did alright in the first innings, making 400, before they bowled out for 91 in their second dig. While India have played Bangladesh eight times in Tests before this match in Hyderabad, this is the first time the two teams have met in this format on Indian soil.
Bangladesh’s admittance to the Test fold happened in a bit of a rush. Bangladesh had Test status before they had first-class cricket in the country. In fact, there was no national league at all until the 1999/2000 season and that didn’t have first-class status until a year later. It has been a slow trudge towards competitiveness for Bangladesh with far more defeats than victories. Their first Test win against a top level opponent only happened late last year when they defeated England. Before that, their only wins had been against a West Indian third team and Zimbabwe.
They have been far more competitive in white ball formats, and will appear at the Champions Trophy in June, but in Test cricket they are still finding their way. It was ever thus with new teams — New Zealand waited 26 years for their first win in Test cricket — but with the increased scrutiny that the round-the-clock media of the 21st century brings, it has been a tough decade and a half for Bangladesh in cricket’s oldest format, but they are getting there, albeit slowly.
So there would have been a small amount of hope in their ranks when they began this first Test away from home against India. That hope would have grown when Taskin Ahmed found the inside edge of KL Rahul’s bat and the ball crashed into the stumps in the first over of the game.
Bangladesh did well in those opening exchanges as both Taskin and Kamrul Islam Rabbi got decent swing at a good pace. Murali Vijay missed and edged the ball regularly and on another day one of those shots would have brought about his demise. He should have been dismissed when on 35 when a terrible mix up between him and Cheteshwar Pujara saw both batsmen at the same end of the pitch. The bowler, Mehedi Hasan, could not gather the ball cleanly when it was thrown into him and Murali scrambled home.
This Indian team at home are beyond formidable. Profligacy that allows them to get away with that kind of mistake is invariably punished. That is exactly what happened here as Pujara and Murali put up a stand of 178, with Murali going on to make his ninth Test hundred. Murali went for 108 when he attempted to paddle a ball from Taijal Islam to fine leg only to miss and be bowled around his legs. In was an inauspicious end to an effective but, by Murali’s high standards, ugly innings.
Pujara looked a lot more solid at the crease, and appeared to be cruising to his fourth Test hundred of this mammoth home season. When he was on 83, he edged a ball from Mehedi Hasan on to Mushfiqur Rahim’s pads which the keeper dove and caught. Still, Pujara is second only to Kohli on the run-scoring charts since the start of this long sequence of Tests at home.
With Pujara’s wicket Kohli arrived at the crease to further add to that already massive run tally, eventually taking it to 1075 in the nine matches he has played since September last year. The effortlessness with which Kohli scores runs is now becoming close to miraculous. His Test average went over 50 for the first time in his career during the series against England, and it is difficult to imagine it doing anything other than increasing further still. He finished day one on 111 not out. Kohli already has three Test double hundreds since July, he could well make it a fourth.
The big talking point before the match got underway was the decision to give Ajinkya Rahane his place back in the team after he missed the final two Tests of the England series with an injured finger. In his absence, Karun Nair scored 303 not out in Chennai, but that was not enough for him to keep his place in the team. Rahane made just 64 runs in six innings against England, so his recall to the side represents a massive show of faith in him from his captain and the selectors.
Rahane replayed some of that confidence from the team management, putting on 122 with Kohli as he finished the day on 45 not out. He made the most of some wayward bowling at the end of the day’s play as the Bangladesh team began to wilt, but he needed to hang around long enough to be given that chance.
This has been a completely professional display from the home team against an opponent that they should beat. Sometimes that can bring a misstep because of overconfidence, but first Murali and then Kohli grounded Bangladesh down and then trampled all over them.