BANGALORE: Afghanistan were handed a bruising introduction to Test cricket by India on Thursday as they capped their astonishing rise from war and refugee camps to joining the sport’s elite.
Afghan skipper Asghar Stanikzai called it a “very proud moment” as he strode onto to the field at Bangalore’s 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. Maybe the first one hour it will be a good wicket for bowling,” 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.
The hosts gave the Afghan bowlers a tough welcome, however, reaching 158 without loss at lunch as Shikhar Dhawan smashed a merciless, unbeaten 104. Murali Vijay was on 41.
Dhawan galloped to his century in just 87 deliveries, becoming the first Indian batsman to score a ton on the opening day before lunch.
Dhawan hit 19 fours and three sixes as he set about the Afghan bowlers including spin sensation Rashid Khan, smashing three boundaries in the teenager’s opening over to bring up his fifty.
However, it remained a landmark occasion for Afghanistan, whose President Ashraf Ghani sent a message of support and called on other Test-playing nations to try their luck against his country.
“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,” he said.
“Today is that historic day.”—AFP