Fri, Jun 15, 2018 - Page 16 News List

India race to 347-6 in Afghan debut

‘HISTORIC DAY’:Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sent his congratulations to the national team, who must now prove they can stand the challenges of Test cricket

AFP, BENGALURU, India

India’s Murali Vijay bats on the first day of a Test against Afghanistan in Bengaluru, India, yesterday.

Photo: AP

Centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay yesterday helped India reach 347-6 at stumps on the rain-hit opening day of Afghanistan’s bruising introduction to Test cricket in Bengaluru as the team capped their astonishing rise from war and refugee camps to joining the sport’s elite.

Test cricket’s newest team were on the receiving end of some aggressive batting as Dhawan, who smashed 107, and Vijay, who made 105, put on a 168-run opening stand after the hosts elected to bat first.

However, Afghanistan’s bowlers struck back in the final session.

Fast bowler Yamin Ahmadzai, who got his team’s first Test scalp after getting Dhawan, took two wickets.

Fellow paceman Wafadar, spin sensation Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman picked up a wicket each.

Hardik Pandya, on 10, and Ravichandran Ashwin, on 7, were at the crease when play ended after an extended final session, but only 78 overs were possible due to two rain interruptions.

Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai called it a “very proud moment” as he strode onto the field at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium for the toss, won by opposite number Ajinkya Rahane.

“All the guys have first-class experience. Inshallah [God willing], we can do well,” the 30-year-old batsman said.

Afghanistan have become one of only 12 nations sanctioned to play Tests, the five-day format considered cricket’s peak, after defying heavy odds to emerge as a force in the game.

However, the hosts gave no quarter to Afghanistan’s bowlers, reaching 264-1 when rain stopped play for the second time in the final session.

Dhawan galloped to his century in just 87 deliveries, becoming the first Indian batsman to reach three figures on the opening day before lunch.

Dhawan hit 19 fours and three sixes as he set about the Afghanistan bowlers, including Khan, smashing three boundaries in the teenager’s opening over to bring up his 50.

However, Dhawan also became Afghanistan’s first Test wicket when paceman Yamin Ahmadzai had him caught by Mohammad Nabi in the slips early in the second session.

Lokesh Rahul, batting on 44, then joined Vijay to continue India’s momentum as they put on an unbeaten 96-run partnership for the second wicket.

Most cricket-loving Afghans were watching the match on TV back home as they prepared for a three-day public holiday for Eid al-Fitr.

Afghans took to social media to celebrate the start of the Test, which came amid a government ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Earlier, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sent his congratulations for what he called a “historic day.”

“I am proud of the men who championed cricket in Afghanistan in the dawn of the century and believed in themselves that one day Afghanistan will play against the best in the world,” Ghani said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter: “May sports continue to bring our people closer and strengthen ties.”

Afghan cricket grew out of refugee camps in Pakistan, where many families were based after they fled conflict in the 1980s and 1990s.

The national team have made giant strides against much richer and more stable countries, despite unrest at home that has forced them to train in India since 2015.

Afghanistan last year achieved full member status of the International Cricket Council, making them one of only 12 Test teams.

They gained one-day international status in 2009 and have qualified for their second 50-over World Cup, which is to be held in England and Wales next year.

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