Afghanistan's dreams of scripting a fairytale turned into a virtual nightmare as a ruthlessly professional India demolished them by an innings and 262 runs inside two days to win the historic one-off Test match here.
Afghanistan’s dreams of scripting a fairytale turned into a virtual nightmare as a ruthlessly professional India demolished them by an innings and 262 runs inside two days to win the historic one-off Test match here. Afghanistan came across painfully short of experience for the longest format and were bowled out for 109 and 103 in pursuit of India’s first innings total of 474 all out today. This was the first time that India won a Test match in two days while it has now happened for the 21st time in the 141-year-history of the traditional format. India, however, did become the first team to claim 20 wickets in a day.
Afghans, who have some impressive accomplishments in the shortest format lasted a total of 66.3 overs (27.5 overs and 38.4 overs), posing serious questions over their readiness to cope up with demands of five-day cricket. The gulf in class was a reality but the Test match exposed their inability to understand the needs of the longest format. Their performance lends support to the demands for a two-tier Test format, which could get them battle-ready for future series.
With an average first-class experience of less than 15 matches, Test cricket wouldn’t have been easy for Afghans but if a robust first-class structure isn’t put in place, ICC’s novel idea may just backfire. The giants of world cricket were supposed to be infinitely superior but what lacked in the visitors was will to fight it out.
Batting was always going to be Afghanistan’s ‘Achilles heel’ as the inexperienced line-up simply didn’t have the technique or the temperament to face either quality pace bowling from Ishant Sharma (2//28 and 2/17) and Umesh Yadav (1/18 and 3/26) or the spin of Ravichandran Ashwin (4/27 and 1/32) and Ravindra Jadeja (2/18 and 4/17).
Every Afghan batsman seemed to be in limited-overs mode without any respect for an aspect called patience, which is an integral component of Test cricket. Once the top-order was blown away by Umesh and Ishant, Ashwin and Jadeja made short work of the middle and lower-order as the second day turned into a totally mismatch. There were two minor milestones for India.
Umesh Yadav completed 100 wickets in Test matches while Ashwin (316 wickets) surpassed Zaheer Khan (311 wickets) to become India’s fourth highest wicket-taker after Anil Kumble (619 wickets), Kapil Dev (434 wickets) and Harbhajan Singh (417 wickets). It started in the first innings with the run-out of portly Mohammed Shahzad (14), who was needlessly run-out as Pandya’s direct throw found him short of his crease.
In the second innings, the same Shahzad (13) nicked at a outswinger from Yadav. Ishant, fresh from an impressive county stint, bowled a perfect line and got the new ball to dart back in cleaning up top-order batsmen. Both speedsters bowled to a probing channel and the Afghans were forced into committing mistakes.
Having not played bowling of this caliber also contributed to their dismal show. The delivery of the first innings was bowled by Ishant to wicketkeeper-batsman Afsar Zazai (6). A full delivery that swung late, had Zazai clean bowled to make it 35 for 4 for the visitors. Ashwin then fooled rival captain Ashgar Stanikzai (11) with a classical off-break. He tossed one up outside the off-stump enticing the skipper to go for expansive drive only to find it turn sharply disturbing the woodwork.
Stanikzai in the second innings played a horrendous shot off Jadeja to be caught by Shikhar Dhawan. The others simply came and went as it turned out to be a no-contest. Earlier, all-rounder Hardik Pandya mixed caution with aggression en route his stroke-filled 71 as India posted a commendable total, which seemed to be good enough for the minnows.
Last man Umesh Yadav also entertained the spectators with some lusty blows and his 26 off 21 balls also helped in beefing up India’s total. Courtesy Pandya’s third half-century in Test cricket, India added 127 runs during the first session of the second day as Afghanistan skipper Ashgar Stanikzai didn’t take the second new ball during the 104.5 overs.
Pandya’s innings had 10 boundaries and he faced 91 balls. What stood out was his discretion with regards to shot selection knowing that there weren’t too many wickets in hand. He was ready to wait for the loose balls and times played copybook forward defensive strokes.
Senior pro Ashwin played a poor stroke, chasing a widish delivery from pacer Yamin Ahmadzai (3/51 in 19 overs) to be caught behind for 18. However, Pandya decided to attack after Ashwin’s departure as he hit a flurry of boundaries in Ravindra Jadeja’s (20) company. Jadeja gave Mohammed Nabi the charge hitting him for a six but holed out in the deep going for the second maximum.
However, they added 67 runs in only 13 overs, taking advantage of the old ball which wasn’t doing much. However, pacer Wafadar (2/100 in 21 overs) was still getting the ball rear up awkwardly at times. Pandya was ready to play those singles and doubles to keep the scoreboard moving. He completed his half-century with a slog sweep of Mohammed Nabi. He was finally caught behind trying to play the ramp shot. It brought Yadav, who immediately hit Wafadar for a boundary and two huge sixes before Rashid trapped Ishant Sharma leg before to wrap up the innings.