Afghanistan’s much-hyped Test debut ended in two days as world number one India stormed to an innings and 262-run victory in Bengaluru.
It was baptism by fire for the Afghans, a harsh reality check. In fact, skipper Asghar Stanikzai was surprised and dismayed at how ‘quickly things ended.’ India, after electing to bat, were in complete control.
Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay scored hundreds while KL Rahul smashed a fluent half-century before the Afghans showed some resilience. Then there was an aggressive Hardik Pandya down the order – his 71 ensured India crossed the 450-run mark. Eventually, the hosts finished with 474 and as it turned out, that was way too much for Test cricket’s latest entrants.
However, no one expected Afghanistan to fold up so pathetically. Their first innings lasted only 27.5 overs. The second innings was a little longer, lasting 38.4 overs. In a rather humiliating collapse, Afghanistan lost 20 wickets in two sessions – 10 after lunch and 10 after tea.
India, therefore, became the first Asian team to win a Test in two days. It was also their biggest innings victory.
Stanikzai had maintained his side were confident of putting up a fight and pushing the mighty Indians in their own backyard. Playing a bit of a mind-game, he even said Afghanistan’s spinners were better than India’s.
By the end of the second evening, the gulf between Afghanistan and India was all too evident.
And Stanikzai was stunned.
“First, thanks to BCCI and the Afghanistan Cricket Board to have given us this opportunity.
“We hadn’t played a Test match before this and we’ve learnt a lot. In the future when we play a match, we know now how to play against a full member nation like India. Yes, we were surprised by how quickly things ended because we were a good team. But Test cricket is a completely different ball game, we have a lot of time and we’ll work on our weaknesses,” he said.
The Test match was marked by plenty of warmth. The Indian prime minister sent a special message for the Afghanistan team, a legendary Indian cricketer born in Kabul came to meet Stanikzai and there was general bonhomie at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
The paltry crowd cheered for the Afghans, they celebrated their moments – their first wicket, their first six, their first catch. These moments will live on with the Afghan players and their merry band of supporters for eternity.
And then Ajinkya Rahane’s gesture at the end made it even sweeter: he called the Afghan team over after the trophy presentation. History was created, records were broken and new friendships were made.
For Stanikzai, the heavy defeat was a difficult pill to swallow but he will cherish the memories and the support: “A huge thanks to the crowd as well, it felt like we were in Kabul.”