India wrapped up a domineering performance against Afghanistan to secure a win by a margin of an innings and 262 runs, thanks to some brilliant bowling displays on the second day of the Bengaluru Test. For India, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma ticked all the boxes ahead of the England tour.
Ashwin lays down a template for Afghanistan
Since 2010, spinners average 25.01 at the M. Chinnaswamy, which is the fifth lowest spin bowling average at any venue to have hosted at least two Tests in that time, which points to the fact that the pitch is one that provides assistance to spinners from the start of the match. And given Afghanistan had some talented spinners in their ranks in the form of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman, and Mohammad Nabi, the team was expected to pose some challenge in front of the hosts, but as things turn out, that was not clearly the case. However, Ravichandran Ashwin, in the first session of the Day 2, immediately laid down the marker how to bowl on such conditions.
When Rahane introduced Ashwin in the 13th over, the off-spinner took no more than three balls to strike as Asghar Stanikzai had no clue of the delivery that spun and dipped in from outside off to hit the stumps. But most importantly, the drift in the delivery that Ashwin managed to extract was telling and gave a steely reminder to the Afghan spinners, what they were lacking. Yesterday, Rashid Khan bowled too short when trying to give the ball a rip, and while trying to pitch the ball up, he released full lobs most of the time. Mujeeb was also guilty of trying too much and as a result, he was rendered fully ineffective.
The experience was telling. After that delivery to Stanikzai, Hashmatullah Shahidi, who averaged 46.40 in the Intercontinental Cup, missed a skidder from Ashwin to be trapped leg before. While Ashwin overtook Zaheer Khan’s tally of 311 to become the fourth highest wicket-taker in Tests for India with that wicket, he further dismissed Yamin Ahmadzai to restrict the visitors to 109 within 28 overs. And in doing that, he definitely gave a lesson or two to Afghanistan on how to bowl the red-ball.
Ishant is well set for England tour
Ahead of the Afghanistan tour, one stat was all over the internet. Ishant Sharma reached his first-ever fifty in first-class cricket, a career-high score of 66 for Sussex against Leicestershire in the second division of the County Championship, during which he put together a 153-run partnership with wicketkeeper Michael Burgess and scored a total of 102 runs at an average of 25.50 from six innings. On the other hand, Cheteshwar Pujara, playing for Yorkshire, managed to score a total of 100 runs from eight innings. The meme was shared by thousands on social media, but that put Ishant’s incredible bowling performance behind the spotlight. While he managed to secure 8 wickets from five matches in the Royal London One-day Cup, he had 15 wickets from seven matches in the four-day format as well.
The preparation was enough to instill fears among English batsmen, especially the way in which the Indian pacer had smashed them in Lord’s in 2014, his performance today would have increased that fear manifold. While it is a fact that the visitors’ batting was nothing but shambolic, Ishant actually held his own with his beautiful inswinging deliveries. He kept on mixing the short balls and at the same time, also did manage to bring the balls nip back with an ease that Zaheer Khan used to do in his prime. The terrifying Ishant is back and all set for the England tour.
No shame, Afghanistan!
Ahead of the match, when India’s sports minister read out a message by the Indian Prime Minister, he had words of praise for Afghanistan’s struggle and bravery, their success
That they couldn't live up to the expectations is a discussion for another day, but saying they didn’t try was too far-fetched. Any lessons take time to kick in and playing the country’s first Test against the No.1 ranked Test team in the world is no easy deal and requires a large amount of time and preparation. However, while four players were getting ready by playing T20s in various parts of the world, seven players in this XI were training on a slow and low track in Dehradun. The team also had to request to get a hit in the indoor nets of a private ground just so they can feel some confidence.
This is the reality. A debutant, who should need more preparation, has no one to ask for it and hence, it is completely illogical to expect them to turn up with full swing. The Afghanis can be proud of the way they bowled in the match whatsoever and may take some lessons from the biggest match of their lives forward.