Had this been a boxing match, the referee would have stopped the contest a long time ago. The Afghanistan cricket team, attempting to punch way above their weight, looked so heavily outclassed that the impending knock-out was only a matter of time — when would India effect it: on the second or third day?
Under a clear blue sky with no rain interruptions, unlike on the opening day, a record 24 wickets, including Afghanistan’s 20 were bagged. An overwhelmingly superior India routed the Afghans by a whopping innings and 262 runs.
Two days ago the Afghan captain was busy shooting his mouth off to the media, claiming that his spinners were a superior lot. After the thrashing, he must be feeling a bit idiotic. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja came across as champion spinners, while his trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammed Nabi looked exactly what they were: novices!
Afghanistan will look back at this brutal introduction to Test cricket with some embarrassment. They had talked the talk. But when the time came to walk it, they were found wanting.
The foremost lesson they’d have learnt is that they lack the credentials to be a successful red-ball cricket team. The ICC, in their hurry, might have gifted them Test status. But it is certain that they will struggle against almost all teams.
It is not just the bowlers who were seen in a poor light. The batsmen looked technically ill-equipped to even survive, let alone score big runs.
Within a few overs of their batting it became evident that this would be a mockery of a Test match. It was downright embarrassing to watch batsmen without footwork flirting with swinging and seaming deliveries sent down by pacemen Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. For one they had no clue in which direction the ball would jag around. This saw them tentatively plonk their foot and try to make contact with the bat. It was a decidedly ungainly sight at this level of the game.
Part of the problem was that their batsmen were used to white ball, which neither swings nor seams beyond a couple of overs. There the focus is on getting used to pace and bounce and not worry too much about edging the ball.
However, in contrast, a red ball can swing almost throughout the innings. The swing could be conventional or reverse and seam movement could be pretty disconcerting on some pitches. Additionally there are slips and gully fielders to be bothered about.
Afghanistan’s batsmen lost the battle on all these counts. The gap between their bat and pad looked wider than the Khyber Pass and it came as no surprise to see Ishant, Ashwin and Jadeja consistently getting through the gate.
On other occasions, the batsmen were squared up with no noticeable attempt to even stay side-on. But it was the repeated cross-batted shots against the spin that reduced the contest to a terrible farce.
How on earth can you play like this in a Test against seasoned professionals and expect to get away?
Ashwin and Jadeja not only pegged them back by bowling a tight stump area line, but also gave a lesson in how to construct an over – ball by ball.
Perhaps Afghanistan would have been better prepared for the Test if they had played a dozen three-day matches against Ranji Trophy teams. If nothing, it would have exposed them to the demands of long-duration matches and put them in the right frame of mind to approach the task.
But here, without skill or temperament, they looked like a bunch of rustic farmers armed with ploughs and sickles taking on a well-drilled, well-equipped professional army. The result could never have been in doubt.
Still, shockingly, the Test finished in under two days. Afghanistan barely crossed the 100-run mark in both innings (109 & 103).
Their first innings was terminated in the period between lunch and tea (27.5 overs) and the second innings between tea and close of play (38.4 overs).
The pity was that it was not at all that sort of a pitch. Although the match had been pushed to the strip adjoining the centre wicket because of excessive use of big-match pitches during the long IPL season, it was still on the same square. The constant rainfall over the past three weeks did not allow for normal maintenance as that required a lot of sunshine.
Still the pitch was full of runs, especially after the moisture in it had dried up. But Afghanistan, so used to 20-over cricket where the pitch stays almost the same through three hours of play, were taken aback to see it behaving differently in each session. By the time they came to terms with it, the Test was as good as over.
Barring Umesh, registering his milestone 100 Test wickets and Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay smashing confidence-boosting centuries, India had nothing to gain from this Test.
Hopefully the facile win would not have given them a false sense of superiority before they embark on the challenging tour of England later this month.