India 347 for 6 (Dhawan 107, Vijay 105, Ahmadzai 2-32) v Afghanistan
Manjrekar: Saw Afghanistan's never-say-die attitude in the last session
Sanjay Manjrekar also talks about India's batting order, what trick the visitors missed in the field, and more
On their first day in Test cricket, Afghanistan looked like they wanted to experience the full range of emotions: they conceded 52 fours and four sixes, made a DRS blunder early on, dropped a catch late in the day, enabled two very different types of centuries, and still, somehow, managed to dominate an entire session and stay alive. India, who were 280 for 1 at one stage, and striking at well more than five per over thanks to domineering efforts from their top three Test openers, lost 5 for 63 in the final session.
Afghanistan had had a decent first half hour, with both Wafadar and Yamin Ahmadzai getting the ball to move around in Bengaluru's dense atmosphere. But neither could apply sustained pressure on India's openers. Shikhar Dhawan, in particular, was given too many boundary opportunities through short-pitched bowling that remained a feature throughout the day.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai looked forlorn very early on, attempting to stop the glut by gradually chopping his slip cordon in the face of a rampaging opening stand and a knee injury to Ahmadzai in the eighth over that kept him out for the rest of the first session. But his most remorseful moment as a Test captain came when neither Wafadar, who had drawn a faint edge from Dhawan, nor wicketkeeper Afsar Zazai, who had made the most boisterous appeal, came to his aid when he looked for consultants to overturn the not out decision. Standing in the slips, Mohammad Shahzad was the only player urging his captain to take the review, but Stanikzai, drowned out by too many opinions, didn't pay heed.
When replays showed a murmur as the ball passed bat, a collective annoyance gripped the visiting team. It was almost like Dhawan sensed it. He spent the next 70 or so minutes flogging his Sunrisers Hyderabad team-mates, Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan, neither of whom looked in control, erring too short to prevent him getting down the track or, in the latter's case, serving up generous full-tosses. By the middle of the first session, with Mujeeb ur Rahman also taking a pasting, Afghanistan already looked defeated. Seventeen overs after that caught-behind appeal, Dhawan had become the first Indian to make a hundred before lunch on the first day of a Test. Despite a shaky, struggling M Vijay at the other end, India had put up 158 without losing a wicket by lunch.
Dhawan fell in the second over after lunch to Ahmadzai - a relay catch, started at second slip by Rahmat Shah's outstretched left hand, completed by Nabi at first - but that didn't put a stop to the scoring. Vijay, who had trouble picking length against pace in the first session, settled into a nice rhythm in the company of KL Rahul, who, having kept the other home boy Karun Nair from making a Test return, was pushed ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara into No. 3. The routine of trying to push through variations - googlies, knuckle balls, arm balls - and invariably landing them short meant more easy runs through the second session for the pair, who had both had indifferent tours of South Africa earlier this year. On the cusp of their milestones, both of them were offered short balls; Vijay launched his upper cut over point to bring up his 12th century - his third in consecutive home Tests - and Rahul casually whipped a googly from Rashid past short fine leg to bring up his half-century.
In the midst of this were two rain breaks that cost 73 minutes. Upon returning from the second one, Afghanistan were a different team. For starters, both their medium-pacers had discovered a peculiar late movement with a near 50-over-old ball in damp conditions. Vijay didn't anticipate the dip inwards when he shouldered arms to Wafadar and was rapped on the front leg and a review couldn't overturn the umpire's on-field decision. Two balls later, Ahmadzai moved one in off the seam and had Rahul chop onto the stumps attempting a cut. That's where the opening was found.
Rashid was a different bowler after the second break as well, switching to a slower pace, a loopier trajectory and relying a lot more on his legbreak. His first maiden in Test cricket came after he had gone for 105 in 17 overs, but it was the start of a tantalising spell. Like he's wont to do, Rashid managed to turn the dots into a wicket. Ajinkya Rahane was given not out after copping one on his back leg trying to whip across the line, but Rashid had grounds for a review that ultimately proved successful.
In Rashid's next over, Pujara had a stab at a rising legbreak but was dropped by Nabi at first slip. But what Rashid couldn't get, Mujeeb did: ripping an offbreak from length, he drew Pujara's inside edge and this time, Nabi took the day's sharpest catch, lunging low to his left at leg slip.
And if India had to prove they were nervous by then, Dinesh Karthik, returning to Tests after eight years, ran halfway down the pitch and failed to ground his bat when diving to return after Hardik Pandya responded in the negative to a non-existent run on the off side. India barely managed to score at three per over in the final session, having begun at 248 for 1 in 45.1 overs.