Dhawan's breezy century before Lunch floors Afghanistan

At the MCG in 1877, Charles Bannerman scored the first runs and Alfred Shaw bowled the first ball in the annals of Test cricket. Over the next 141 years, Test cricket has stood its test of time and is still regarded as the benchmark of excellence in an era when T20 cricket rules the roost. However, only a few countries play the game that demands varied skills and temperament. In May 2018, Ireland became the 11th nation to play Tests when they took on Pakistan in a one-off game in Dublin. Afghanistan followed suit when they faced the number one ranked Test side, India, in Bengaluru on Thursday (June 14).

Unfortunately for Afghanistan it didn’t exactly turn out to be a good first session in their maiden Test as Shikhar Dhawan ran riot (104* off 91 balls) to power India to 158 for no loss at the Lunch break. He also became the first Indian to crunch a hundred before Lunch on the opening day.

India, who opted to bat, were off to a slightly tentative start. Yamin Ahmadzai, with an open-chested action, troubled Murali Vijay by nipping it both ways. The veteran opener perhaps was struggling to pick from the slightly awkward action of Ahmadzai as he was beaten in the first over and that was followed by Vijay eking out an inside edge in the third over.

Dhawan, his batting partner, was more assured as he crunched a string of boundaries off Ahmadzai. It was only when Mohammad Nabi came into the attack, Dhawan decided to showcase his full range of shots. The southpaw batsman skipped down the track to loft the off-spinner into the stands. He also swept the same bowler in his next over to alter Nabi’s length.

Eventually, Ashgar Stanikzai, the captain, had to introduce his trump card Rashid Khan into the attack. He too couldn’t put the lid on the scoring rate as Dhawan didn’t allow him to settle into a rhythm by tonking him a few times into the boundary hoardings. In the 20th over of the innings, he also picked Rashid’s main weapon – the googly – and deposited him into the stands.

For a moment, it felt as if Dhawan would reach a hundred before the Lunch break on Day 1. He duly achieved the milestone by smacking Mujeeb Ur Rahman for three overs and in Rashid’s seventh over, he cracked a cover drive to reach the three-figure mark. He received a rousing applause from the crowd for his stunning achievement. Meanwhile, Vijay ended the session on a rather sedate 41.

Afghanistan’s bowlers struggled to bowl with good discipline and were severely punished. They would also rue the fact that they didn’t take the review for a caught behind appeal off Wafadar, with Dhawan being the batsman. The pacer got it to hold its line from round the wicket and the loud appeal for caught behind was turned down. Despite Mohammad Shahzad insisting on taking the review, Stanikzai decided not to opt for the same. Replays suggested Dhawan had eked out a faint edge.

Afghanistan need to bowl with much better discipline in the second session or the opening day of their inaugural Test could turn out to be a chastising experience.

Brief scores: India 158/0 (Shikhar Dhawan 104*, Murali Vijay 41*) vs Afghanistan.

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