Bengaluru: Shikhar Dhawan gave Afghanistan a rude reality check on what longest format is all about with a first session hundred as ruthless India reached 248 for 1 before heavens opened up forcing an early tea on the opening day of the one-off Test.
Dhawan bludgeoned the rookie Afghan bowlers into submission with a power-packed 96-ball-107 while Murali Vijay grinded the opposition with a solid unbeaten 94 off 128 as the duo set the platform for a mammoth first innings total with a stand of 168 in only 28.4 overs.
Incidentally, Dhawan became the first ever Indian batsman to score a century in the first session of a Test match joining the illustrious ranks of Sir Don Bradman, Victor Trumper, Majid Khan, David Warner. The third specialist opener in the side KL Rahul (33 off 48 balls) played some attractive strokes before the stoppage of play.
Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons’ statement about “not knowing what it’s all about till you get there” seemed prophetic as the talented bunch of cricketers got their introductory lessons in red ball cricket from two openers, who have played 85 Test matches between themselves.
Rashid Khan (14-0-89-0), the reigning crown prince of 24-ball spells, received a harsh treatment from Dhawan, who smacked him for three boundaries to complete a half-century in 47 balls. Dhawan also hit a flowing cover drive off Rashid to complete his hundred as Vijay also frustrated the minnows with his watertight technique.
Call it irony, Dhawan stepped out to hit straight sixes off Afghanistan’s three IPL participants – Rashid, Mohammed Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahaman with effortless ease.
In all Dhawan hit 19 boundaries and three huge sixes before Yamin Ahmedzai picked him with a perfectly pitched delivery that moved a shade away after pitching and Mohammed Nabi in the slips pouched it after his skipper Ashgar Stanikzai fumbled on first attempt.
The 37 boundaries and four sixes hit in 45 odd overs was a testimony that there is a long road that Afghanistan need to travel.
The hapless bowlers struggled with the ‘Test match length’, especially the spinners who are used to ball flat and quick. The moment Rashid or Mujeeb (0/46 in 7 overs) tried to flight, Dhawan would step out, if they upped the pace of the deliveries, they were cut forcefully.
At the onset, opening bowler Yamin Ahmadzai (8-2-28-1) bowled a few sharp outswingers before leaving the field with a muscle pull. He did come back at the stroke of lunch but again after another four-over spell — in which he got Dhawan’s wicket –, he left the field. The other new ball bowler Wafadar was angling it across the left-hander and Vijay faced him more to wear him out and take advantage of the spinners.
While Dhawan was more forceful in his strokeplay, Vijay was more silken in his drives. The shot of the day would certainly be a backfoot square drive off Wafadar. Vijay’s innings so far has 14 boundaries and a six. While watching Rashid bowl, it seemed as if Kevin Pietersen’s Pataudi memorial lecture kept playing in the background.
“T20 offers cricketing buzz without the full sting. Wickets are less precious. Risks are taken without same downside. There is less character and technique required.”
It couldn’t have been truer as Rashid and Mujeeb – the darling of the T20 generation were playing their first ever game with SG Test ball. They have played all their first class games with red kookaburra.
Anyone who has played a bit of cricket knows that SG Test isn’t a ball to bowl with if it’s the first time.
Rashid understood it the hard way. He was relying too much on the flipper and the googly but missing the length meant that he was carted on all sides of the wicket.
There weren’t too many traditional leg-breaks (he calls himself an off-spinner with a leg-break action). Call it the bad habit of T20 cricket, both Rashid and Mujeeb stopped flighting the deliveries once Dhawan started dancing down the track.
There was too much width on offer and the Delhi left-hander on Indian pitches was always going to be a big bully as the Afghans found out.
ICC Chief Executive Dave Richardson was in there to witness the 12th nation make its Test debut and would certainly acknowledge that it’s just a nascent beginning. But Afghanistan found on the first day – Test cricket is indeed the ‘Test’.