New Delhi: Bangladesh couldn’t have hoped for a better start to their first ever Test in India. Once Indian captain Virat Kohli called it right at the toss and showed no hesitation in batting first on what seems to be a belter of a surface with a tinge of green on it, it took Bangladesh four deliveries to draw first blood.
K.L. Rahul, who scored 199 in his previous Test outing, and was making a return after a shoulder injury, could run only a double before playing on to a fuller delivery from Taskin Ahmed. India were 2/1 against the moving ball before Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara put on 178 runs for the second wicket which helped lay a solid platform. A platform from where Vijay and skipper Virat Kohli then went on to score their respective centuries, all but indicating that India would fancy batting just once in this game.
Bangladesh finally broke through with the wicket of Pujara in the dying stages of the second session, and then Vijay soon after the opener had scored his second century against them post tea. But that remained the last ditch-effort the visitors could put together. Kohli remained unbeaten on 111 and along with Rahane, saw India through to a bullish 356/3 at stumps on opening day of the one-off Test between the two sides in Hyderabad, thus blunting a Bangladesh attack that failed to capitalise on several openings.
Pujara fell for 83 but not before he became India’s highest scorer in first-class matches this season, the most by any player, overtaking Chandu Borde’s 1604 in 1964-65 by one run. His century stand with Vijay was also the fifth between the two this season. They now average the third-highest for all Indian Test partnership pairs – 66.14 (minimum 1000 runs) and took their respective averages to over 200 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
It was almost as if Bangladesh had to be kept waiting for the Indian batsmen to make a mistake, such was the fluency with which Pujara and Vijay scored runs. The scoring-rate, hovering around 3.20, had escalated to over four at a stage as India scored over 260 runs in the final two sessions. New-ball movement out of the way, Pujara and Vijay entered their respective zones and kept the runs flowing. Bangladesh’s spin pair of Mehedi Hasan and Shakib Al Hasan was left handicapped by the lack of assist from the surface that allowed India to make merry. Making the most of it was Vijay, who danced down to Shakib for a four and six to signal his intent.
Pujara waded a four off Kamrul Islam Rabbi soon after lunch before getting a bit circumspect, while allowing Vijay to score freely. Taijul Islam was kept waiting till the 36th over and even though he generated some turn, Pujara wasn’t flustered. The turn from round the wicket allowed Pujara to spot his range, before he took Mehedi for three fours in his next three overs. It was one of those lucky breaks that got Pujara. Trying to defend, he offered an edge that was taken by Mushfiqur after the ball lobbed off his pads.
It was business as usual for Kohli, who equalled Mohammad Azharuddin’s record of nine centuries by an Indian Test captain. He scored two fours off his first three balls, and with that a typical Kohli innings began to unfurl. He was aided by the Bangladesh seamers who offered plenty of room to him initially to score free runs. When they pulled back their line, he was equally effective playing in the V. Pulls were executed well and flicks and glances were picture-perfect. Giving him company was Rahane, who held his own after the rare failure of the England series and remained five short of a fifty. A flurry of shots towards the end from both batsmen left Bangladesh battered and bruised.
Bangladesh made the most of the early breakthrough of Rahul by giving nothing away initially. Taskin and Rabbi swung the ball both ways and generated reasonable pace, mixing their cutters and bouncers effectively. Result: India could manage only 26 runs in the first 10 overs with just one boundary coming from the bat of Pujara.
An extended spell from Rabbi (eight straight overs), who seemed to be getting tired with each over saw Pujara and Vijay playing a range of shots. And with each stroke, Rabbi erred more in length. When he bowled full, Pujara drove him down the ground and when short, Vijay played the short arm pull and the square cut. The attack that once looked threatening now seemed easy business for both. An initially uncomfortable-looking Vijay found the middle of his bat, while Pujara waited and picked the loose ones.
The other real chance Bangladesh had, other than a couple of edges each from Pujara and Vijay that dropped inches short of first slip, arrived in the 19th over, where poor calling between the two batsmen, almost saw Vijay running himself out. He and Pujara were stranded at one end but a poor pick up from Hasan at the bowling end meant that Vijay survived. If that wasn’t enough, there was also a leading edge from Pujara that fell short of the cover fielder.