Rashid Khan's Test debut: A day of two halves
Pre rain-break spell: 14-0-89-0 & post rain-break spell 12-2-31-1.
The Rashid Khan Zone
Till 5 pm, the giant screen at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium was showing the highlights package of Shikhar Dhawan's century and M Vijay's classical hundred.
At 5.45pm, Rashid Khan's variations were on view for all at the big screen. Cameras all over Rashid's fingers. Rashid Khan had finally entered the 'Rashid Khan Zone'.
Ajinkya Rahane, who was keen on defending his way to stumps, defended Rashid for his first maiden in Test cricket after the Afghan leggie had bowled 17 overs conceding more than 100 runs.
Rashid, who was belted around the park by India's top three Dhawan, Vijay and KL Rahul in the first two sessions, had opposite to him two batsmen - Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara - whom he knew wouldn't charge at him.
Rashid knew he could get his rhythm. He bowled ball after ball, dot after dot and suddenly Rashid was in the contest. The quicker ones which were shorter in the first two sessions weren't much on display. He exhibited exceptional control which surprisingly wasn't the case in his first 17 overs. He looked relaxed, there wasn't that 'how can someone hit me' look with the hands in the hip.
In a T20 match, Rashid would have more support in the fence and some of his deliveries, probably quick and short, would have seen him concede only a single.
In Test cricket, there are fewer fielders saving the boundaries and the emphasis is more on having fielders around the bat. And Dhawan cashed in on every loose ball and converted some good ones into boundary balls.
But a defending, more sedate Rahane missed one on the outside and missed one on the inside. Soon, a Rashid faster one, slid through and wrapped Rahane. The umpire turned down the appeal only for Asghar Stanikzai to refer it and bring about Rashid's maiden Test wicket.
One could sense that something was going to happen every ball from there on. Dinesh Karthik, on a comeback, knew Rashid was at him.
For the first time on Afghanistan's maiden day in Test cricket, they seemed in control of things. Rashid was spinning it either ways from the same spot.
Karthik faced quite a few googlies that went away. Pujara was fiddling around his off stump. Rashid found the edge of Pujara's bat only to be dropped by Mohammed Nabi.
But the relentless, aggressive, at the batsman's face bowler Rashid was back. He ensured the Indian middle order endured some nerve-wracking moments throughout the final hour of the day.
Rashid Khan may not have had an auspicious start to his Test career. Of course, playing India in India on Test debut is no easy task for any young spinner. But the manner in which he came back and owned the place for an hour late in the day showed the character of the man.
A harsh lesson for Rashid Khan on Test debut
"We will be ruthless." These were the words of Ajinkya Rahane ahead of the Afghanistan Test.
And India walked the talk. Shikhar Dhawan led the charge in the first session as he never let Rashid Khan bowl in a particular spot. Rashid, who has mastered the art of bowling numerous dots in T20s, couldn't curb the batsmen with a red ball.
The wicket had just a little for the spinners but Rashid was supposed to create an impact irrespective of the wicket. Rashid not picking up a wicket was one lighter story, but him not bowling even a single maiden in 14 overs of Test cricket was the bigger story.
Dhawan and Vijay had ample time, maybe their batting made it look that way, to play him on all sides of the wicket. 14-0-89-0 wasn't expected out of Rashid. Maybe Rashid was expecting a cautious approach from Dhawan. But the latter chose to unleash his flashing blades.
Rashid did manage to beat Dhawan on a couple of occasions. One such instance, a desperate Rashid and Afghanistan did go for the DRS for an LBW decision. But it didn't go their way. For someone who is known for his accuracy despite being a wrist spinner, Rashid was totally off-color on his maiden day at the Test arena.
He leaked runs on both sides off the wicket. Rashid had a chance to make a mark post Dhawan's exit in the second session. But then India again were ruthless.
Vijay took over from Dhawan. Shuffling deep back into the crease, Vijay whipped one towards wide long on for a four. It induced a flurry of errors. Short ones, full tosses and repeat the same. Rashid was up against
Vijay, who had played only a single game in the IPL, with a few fielders protecting the fence on the leg side. Soon, an ordinary Mujeeb replaced Rashid. It felt as if Rashid was rushing through his overs. Maybe, the crowd chants got the better of him.
He was probably expecting a wicket off every ball. His mannerisms suggested so. There were oohhs and aahss after every proper defensive stroke. Every nudge from Vijay probably gave Rashid the feeling that he was close to getting a wicket. But it never happened.
In T20s a dot is great. In Tests, building up pressure is a key element. Rashid failed to build the pressure element. Rather Dhawan never allowed Rashid to enter 'The Rashid Zone'.
For Rashid, it was just walk back, bowl and get whacked by Dhawan. It's just Day One in Test cricket for Rashid and he would know better that patience is a crucial factor in Test cricket.