On Thursday, 14 June, on their first day of Test cricket, Afghanistan went to their big strength, spin bowling, as early as the ninth over.
Rashid Khan, their wunderkind leg-spinner, was brought on for the 14th. It wasn’t an over that he’ll remember particularly fondly. Struggling to settle on a length, he was taken apart by a belligerent Shikhar Dhawan. India, it would appear, had chosen attack as the best form of defence.
Khan was immediately taken for a string of three boundaries, and when he came back to bowl the 20th, he went for 20. His googly simply could not shake Dhawan.
Having successfully nullified the spin threat, Dhawan raced ahead to become the first Indian and only the sixth player to bring up a century before lunch on the first day of a Test.
The Indian opener later credited his familiarity with Khan from their time together playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League for his success against the bowler.
“Of course Rashid is a top-class bowler and I enjoyed my battles with him,” said Dhawan “Since I dominated, I enjoyed it, but as I said, he is a great bowler.
“I just went with the flow. The good thing and one advantage that I had was that I faced him in nets for two years, because we play for the same team in IPL. So, I was used to his bowling and that helped me.”
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
Where Dhawan went on the attack, and Murali Vijay and KL Rahul kept up the run-rate going at a good click, the final session went all Afghanistan’s way. The Indian middle order, perhaps in an attempt to not lose late wickets, played cautiously, and paid for it.
“See, each one has a different game,” said Dhawan, defending his teammates. “A team is formed of different characters – I am a different character, my game is different to what Vijay’s is.
“Some people like to step out and play and some others don’t prefer that. Each individual has his own game. My strength is to step out and play and I play accordingly.”