Afghanistan’s first day of Test cricket was a day of two parts.
In the first session at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday, 14 June, they were on the back foot as India, led by Shikhar Dhawan, milked them for 158 runs in an unbroken first-wicket stand.
Their position at tea was little better, having seen the back of Dhawan. Yet Murali Vijay and KL Rahul had no difficulty in scything through the field to get to 248/1.
Afghanistan fight back in the final session! After Dhawan and Vijay tons got India flying, Afghanistan's bowlers found their groove with five wickets after tea to reduce the hosts to 347/6 at stumps.— ICC (@ICC) June 14, 2018
What did you make of day one?#INDvAFG scorecard ➡️ https://t.co/3XQ9WU3iSy pic.twitter.com/0XamPmm1Q9
It took a rain break and a change in strategy for them to fight back in the game. In the final session, India added only 99 runs, losing five quick wickets to go to stumps on 347/6.
Yamin Ahmadzai, who bowled Afghanistan’s first over in Test cricket and took their first wicket when he sent back Dhawan, admitted it was a day of both enjoyment and “a little bit stress”.
“Yes, there were some nerves early on,” he told presspersons. “In the first session we gave them too many loose balls. In the second session we tried to limit the loose balls, and it worked.
“We gripped the game and we started to go with another plan, which was a little bit defensive and we were successful in that.”
Captain Asghar Stanikzai’s advice to his bowlers was to keep things simple. “He told us that the bowlers should try to stop runs, don’t try too many things, don’t chase wickets,” said Ahmadzai, who finished the day with 2/32 in his 13 overs.
Rashid Khan, No.1 on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Rankings for bowlers, was perhaps the big beneficiary of this advice. In his first 10-over spell, he conceded 75 runs. In his last spell, a change of ends and approach worked well for him.
“At the beginning he was trying too hard,” said Ahmadzai. “At the end, he tried to bowl wicket to wicket and he believed in himself. The ball was also gripping good.”
Their initiation to Test cricket was a tough one for the Afghans, and they admitted it was a learning experience playing against the No.1 Test team. Yet, there was a lot for them to take away from the day, not least the pride of wearing those bright red caps.
“This was a dream come true for our nation,” explained Ahmadzai. “Getting a Test cap is the most important thing [for a cricketer]. And it was the same for me – I can’t put it in words.
“Playing in India with India, the No.1 team, was a good experience. There are still four days to go. We will try to do our best.”