The fanfare associated with Afghanistan's debut Test match had possibly come to a grinding halt the moment Shikhar Dhawan dug into his Sunrisers Hyderabad teammate Rashid Khan.
However, the final nail in the coffin came hammering down in the form of India's bowling attack as the lackadaisical, T20-groomed Afghanistan batsmen looked clueless at Bengaluru, not once, but twice in the space of a day’s play.
It resulted in the loss by an innings and 262 runs within two days, ensuring a galore of notorious records being broken. As the visitors sit back to think what exactly hit them, India would be mighty pleased with their immaculate performance befitting the attitude of a No 1 side. Here we dissect the performances of the players from either side, and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 on their show in the one-off Test.
Flashy, expressive and flamboyant, Dhawan took little time to spoil the historic occasion for Afghanistan as he bossed around their bowling attack and raised a hundred within lunch on day one. He stamped his authority over the attack when he mercilessly toyed with Rashid and Mujeeb ur Rahman on a wicket that had some early spice for the seamers. The hundred was a slap into reality for Afghanistan after their uber confident approach before the Test match.
Sub-continental tracks and weak batting line-ups are bread and butter for Ravichandran Ashwin and the crafty off-spinner made light work of Afghanistan's fidgety batsmen itching to free their arms. The Tamil Nadu spinner gave the ball ample air, flighting it well above the eye-line of the batsmen, enticing them to go after it. He mixed it up with his quicker variations and returned with match figures of 5/59, with the first innings collapse hastened by his introduction into the attack.
Sticking to his meticulous line of attack in Tests, Jadeja attacked the stumps, gave little room and made life difficult for the newbie batsmen. He used the arm ball and the one turning away from the right-hander in the perfect concoction to bamboozle the batsmen. He also broke the sole partnership that added some value to the Afghanistan innings, and helped India wrap up the formalities on Day 2.
Circumspect against the Afghanistan seamers Yamin Ahmadzai and Wafadar early on, Murali Vijay played second fiddle to Dhawan till the boisterous left-hander departed. While he cracked a fine hundred, his indecision against the seamers as the ball moved about would worry the Indian camp ahead of the all-important England tour.
With Virat Kohli's absence gifting him a run in the side, KL Rahul compiled a half-century at a strike-rate that wouldn't make Kings XI Punjab too disappointed. He was pushed up to No 3, a position where Cheteshwar Pujara held fort, and repaid the faith with a fine knock. However, he would kick himself for not converting it into a hundred.
With the team losing a few wickets late on day one, the onus was on Hardik Pandya to counter-attack or rally together the tail-enders to get India as close to 500 as possible. He did so with aplomb, compiling a worth-while 71 off 94 balls to put his side ahead. To further enhance his case, the all-rounder was tidy in his short spells with the ball.
Skiddy with his pace and arguably better with his lines, Umesh Yadav sizzled on day two in Afghanistan's second innings, cleaning up the top three in the space of seven overs. His disconcerting pace and late movement troubled Afghanistan batsmen, who were rooted to their crease with hanging bats.
On the back of a successful county stint, Ishant Sharma appeared to be in fine rhythm as he put more body behind his deliveries, squaring up the batsmen with his seam movement and bounce from a length. The work Jason Gillespie had done with Ishant Sharma at Sussex was evident in the manner in which he steamed in on day two and landed it much fuller than we are used to seeing him do.
Perhaps the only bowler to walk away with respectable figures from the Afghanistan side, Yamin Ahmadzai's probing morning spell on day one and even better return spell later in the day attracted a lot of attention. He bowled his heart out and was rewarded with three wickets in a 19-over marathon that leaked runs at a miserly rate of 2.7.
Among the most patient of Afghanistan's batsmen, Hashmatullah Shahidi countered the Indian spinners and seamers with conviction in the second innings, remaining unbeaten on 36 from 88 balls even as wickets tumbled around him. The fact that he spent a lot many overs more than his teammates in the middle would give him a lot of confidence.
While Rashid and Mujeeb hogged all the limelight before the Test, it was Nabi’s underrated, yet tidy off-spin that gave Stanikzai something to bank upon. He showed the grit and temperament with the bat that was evidently lacking in other Afghanistan batsmen in the first innings, but with no choice other than to attack to survive, Nabi fell into the same trap as his mates.
The 18-year-old seamer was guilty of giving Dhawan too much room early on in the innings, but found the ideal length and line to trouble batsmen soon enough. His spell against Dhawan from around the wicket and to Vijay with the ball cutting back in was reminiscent of a young Courtney Walsh. These are baby steps for Wafadar in International cricket, but if his 21 overs are anything to go by, the young fast bowler has ample talent.
Built up as the trump card that would destroy India at Bengaluru, Rashid's facade came off when he landed too many googlies and full tosses on day one. His wayward line and length allowed batsmen to dominate him in the first half of the Indian innings. To his credit, he returned with better control, learning from his mistakes and bowled posing much more threat later on.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Much like his more popular spin twin, Mujeeb learned the realities of Test cricket the harsh way as his carrom balls and bag of other tricks came to nothing against the swishing blades of Dhawan and Vijay. Like Rashid, though, Mujeeb was quick to correct his flaws and bowled much better later in the innings.
Pushed to a spot below what he is used to batting at, Pujara had the cushion of 280 runs and a lavish run rate when he walked out to the middle. There was much more intent from the Saurashtrian as his strike rate of proves, but his life was made hard by a rejuvenated Rashid. He was dropped off the bowling of the leggie, but couldn't make use of the reprieve, falling to the leg-spinner’s understudy for 35 shortly afterwards.
For all his confidence in the pre-match press conference, Stanikzai failed to lead his side from the front. He showed decent composure in the second innings, but once again couldn't conjure anything substantial in terms of runs. His captaincy in the first innings deserves a bit of credit, particularly when he persisted with attacking fields even as Dhawan was on the rampage. Like his team, Stanikzai would learn on the job.
Normally two innings’ of 14 and 13 with no real intent or eye-catching shots would go into rock bottom of a report card, but the energy and enthusiasm he brought on to the field while Afghanistan shoulders drooped from the Dhawan onslaught deserves a tap on the shoulder. The limited-overs wicket-keeper was like Gatorade for the Afghanistan bowlers from first slip and even displayed a few acrobatic moves while fielding. He would want to work on his temperament and running between the wickets before heading to another Test match, though.
The Indian stand-in skipper’s woeful run in Test matches at home continued as he misjudged a Rashid leg-break to be trapped in front before he could really settle in. The delay in bringing Jadeja into the attack in the second innings also cast doubts on his tactical nous.
The role of a No 3 batsman is to soak in the pressure if an early wicket falls and act as an anchor for the middle-order. Rahmat Shah, stylish and elegant as he is at the crease, appeared befuddled by the Indian seamers and spent a mere 21 balls across innings’ at the crease. His poor judgement of which balls to play at and which to leave made his unpleasant stay at the wicket even more difficult.
Dinesh Karthik's return to the Test side after eight years and 87 Test matches began with chants of ‘Karthik’ echoing around the stadium — probably stemming from his new-found popularity after the Nidahas and IPL exploits — as he walked out to bat. It quickly turned sour as he went after a non-existent single to run himself out for 4 after a 22-ball stay at the crease.
With a questionable technique and two horrible dismissals, the debut Test match was a nightmare for Javed Ahmadi, much as was the case for the rest of the visiting team. He lasted just 19 balls across both innings, scoring a mere 4 runs and barely showing the character and conviction expected from a Test opener.
The wicket-keeper batsman was bowled in both the innings’, by Ishant Sharma and Jadeja respectively, leaving his gates wide open for the ball to miss the bat and pad and crash-land onto the stumps. He dropped a sitter from behind the stumps but seems to be a decent enough keeper to persist with. Zazai will want to work on his batting, though.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor
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