Bengaluru: When Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay opened the innings for India on Day 1 of the first Test between India and Afghanistan, it felt like a strong total in the first innings is on its way. The way Dhawan, and later Vijay batted in the first session of the day, two things became clear. One, this was a good track to bat. Two, Afghanistan’s bowling was haywire.
Out of the two openers, Dhawan looked the most lethal, scoring at his will, taking advantage of the poor balls bowled at him by the visitors and creating run-scoring opportunities on even the good balls. It resulted in his seventh Test ton and him becoming the only Indian to register a Test century in the first session of the first day’s play. This was followed up by Vijay who began shakily but ended up securing another ton for himself. KL Rahul played aggressively as well, hitting a 64-ball 54. Things were in India’s control, totally.
However, what happened after the departure of these three should concern the Indians more. At one stage, the hosts were going strong at 284 for 2. The loss of the third wicket pushed the run-rate down and the Indians then gave Asghar Stanikzai a moment to reconsider his plans. The rain breaks helped as well. He brought back the pacers, who made an early impact post Tea. Eventually, India ended up with 347 runs with the loss of six wickets at stumps, scoring 63 runs in the last 22 overs of the day. A side that managed 168 runs in the first 27 overs should be worried about this end.
On the morning of Day 2, Hardik Pandya and Ravichandran Ashwin will be at the crease. Both are capable to stay at the crease for long time. However, just mere staying won’t do India much good. It is important that the pair takes the Indian total near 500. They will have to take a leaf out of the way the top three batted, respecting the good balls and hitting the bad ones for boundaries. That is what Indian captain Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara failed to do. The 34-run partnership between them came off 86 balls that shifted the momentum in the favour of the visitors. This is what Pandya-Ashwin need not do.
They need to make sure that they don’t fall in the first session of Day 2 as it will return the pressure back on the Afghans. Losing a wicket early may give Afghanistan a chance to end the Indian innings below the total of 400. Not doing that does not mean India will be on back foot but more runs on the scoreboard would mean more pressure on Afghanistan’s batting line-up and more pressure on them can help India seal the match early.