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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Reality check proves tough for Afghanistan as India sail to win inside two days

Crushing defeat by a margin of an innings and 262 runs on their debut in Test cricket for the Afghans

India's players celebrate during their emphatic win over Afghanistan. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo
India's players celebrate during their emphatic win over Afghanistan. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo

It was almost as if the Bengaluru Test was a meeting between the world’s best side and a bunch of novices.

Which, of course, it was. For all Afghanistan’s bombast and bullishness ahead of their Test debut, they were still going up against the No 1 ranked side in the ICC rankings.

There is a good reason India hold that status, rather than South Africa, or Australia, or New Zealand. They are an outstanding side, and they proved it here. If it meant they were party-poopers, then so be it.

The margin of victory – an innings and 262 runs - was crushing. The manner of it, even more so. All over within two days – the first time a Test in the subcontinent had ever finished before the third day. Each of Afghanistan’s two innings lasted less than a session. It was bleak.

Quite where the Afghans go from here is not clear. India, though, will be able to head to the UK, where they have scores to settle, safe in the knowledge they are working like a well-oiled machine.

Their ruthlessness almost felt mean. This was Afghanistan’s first Test, after all, and it coincided with Eid.

Their players arrived at the ground for Day 2 having attended the mosque for prayers.

Afghanistan's Javed Ahmadi walks off after being dismissed. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo
Afghanistan's Javed Ahmadi walks off after being dismissed. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo

As an example of the outrageous resources available to the home team, Ravindra Jadeja came in at the fall of the seventh wicket. He has three first-class triple-centuries to his name, and a best of 331. Yet he is only good enough to bat at No 9 in this batting line-up.

And, while the team had been powering through the motions on the field, the likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni had been undergoing fitness tests on the outside field at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Neither were the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah involved here.

Such enviable strength in depth meant there was no let up from the Indians against Afghanistan.

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Once the batsmen had racked up 474, new-ball duo Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav bowled with brio.

They had to. They are competing for places in the starting XI for the greater challenges of five Tests in England later this summer, with Kumar and Bumrah also in the conversation.

And India were on their home patch, too. No wonder Afghanistan struggled.

Fair to say, though, they did not help themselves. They started Day 1 blinded by the occasion, allowing India off to a flyer, and then won praise for the way they clawed it back on the first afternoon. They proved they could play a bit.

And then, Day 2 started and they were back to their bad old ways.

The second morning was just as bad as the first. Afsar Zazai dropped a regulation catch at the wicket off Rashid Khan to reprieve Ravi Ashwin. It was just the start of a ragged display with both bat and ball, with the keeper – who had been neat a day earlier – the lead culprit.

There were dropped catches, rank long-hops, and overthrows – including the rare feat of a boundary fielder giving away five overthrows on the opposite side of the field. That is so poor it is actually quite impressive.

Hardik Panya benefitted to the tune of 71 from 94 balls, while Umesh hit a perky 26 from 21 balls at No 11.

Then, the batting. Afghanistan do have experience of first-class cricket. They have been highly successful in the four-day Intercontinental Cup – the most recent champions in fact, sealing the title with a win over UAE in Abu Dhabi last year. That was one of a number of factors that persuaded the ICC to admit them to the Test fold.

And yet, judge on this evidence, it would be easy to think they had never played a multi-day match ever before.

OK, so India have a powerful and well-balanced bowling attack. But the tourists made it far too easy for them.

Afghanistan’s first Test innings lasted a mere 27.5 overs. They made just 109.

While that constituted the afternoon session, the evening session was not far off being an exact replica. All out for 103 in 38.4 overs. It was the fourth occasion of a side being out twice in a day in Test match cricket.

All the enthusiasm over Afghanistan joining the Test-playing elite felt a long time previous. It had only been a day earlier.