India won’t take Afghanistan lightly on their Test debut, says Ajinkya Rahane

Rahane is ready for the challenge of new boys Afghanistan.
Updated 13 June 2018
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India won’t take Afghanistan lightly on their Test debut, says Ajinkya Rahane

  • Afghanistan to make Test debut against Indians in Bangalore.
  • Rahane knows all too well perils of underestimating a hungry new side.

BANGALORE: Top-ranked India will be “ruthless” and not take Afghanistan lightly when they make their Test debut in Bangalore, skipper Ajinkya Rahane said.
It will be a historic moment for Asghar Stanikzai’s team when they step out on Thursday for their maiden five-day outing against the world’s number one Test side.
But Rahane, who is standing in as captain for Virat Kohli, said there was no room for complacency in cricket.
“We are not ging to take Afghanistan lightly. They have a decent team ... bowlers (are good),” he said on the eve of the one-off Test.
“As a Test team we cannot take anyone for granted because cricket is a funny game. We want to go out there and be ruthless.
“We are going to focus on our strengths, our positives. We are not thinking about Afghanistan as well: yes, we respect them as our opponent but it’s important for us to go out there and give more than our 100 percent,” said the top-order batsman.
The strife-torn nation secured Test status last year along with Ireland, who lost their debut match to Pakistan in Dublin last month.
Since gaining ODI status in 2009 the Afghans have made giant strides and qualified for their second 50-over World Cup in England and Wales next year. They have also been part of four Twenty20 World Cups.
Rahane said it would be an “honor” for every Indian player to be part of the match and acknowledged Afghanistan’s big moment on the cricket field.
Stanikzai has insisted that his team’s spin department led by teen sensation Rashid Khan is better than India’s.
Khan, the top T20 bowler in ICC rankings, took the Indian Premier League by storm with his 21 wickets for runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad, and mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman also impressed in the cash-rich tournament.
Rahane refused to draw comparisons between the spin attacks of the two teams, but praised the experience of India’s Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as well as the talent of Kuldeep Yadav.
“Every member of their team believes that their side is good, that their bowling attack or their batting unit is much better,” Rahane said.
“We all know the stats but we don’t focus on them. Our spinners, Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep are experienced and quality spinners.”
Rahane, who captained Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, said it was important now for his team’s players to switch mentally from T20 mode to playing in the longest format.
“A couple of practice session were fantastic after coming back from the IPL,” he said.
“It’s important we play our minds rather than skills, because getting back to Test from T20 cricket is all about tuning your mind rather than focusing on your skills.”


Sam Curran and Jos Buttler save England against Sri Lanka spin in Kandy

Updated 14 November 2018
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Sam Curran and Jos Buttler save England against Sri Lanka spin in Kandy

KANDY: Sri Lanka’s spinners claimed some big-name England wickets on the first day of the second Test on Wednesday before Jos Buttler and Sam Curran rescued the innings.
Buttler’s 63 and a crucial 64 from Curran at the end lifted England to 285 all out after they had been struggling on 89-4 on the turning Pallekelle stadium pitch.
Curran, fast becoming an England hero, said reaching near 300 was a “massive” achievement.
England spinner Jack Leach then strengthened England’s position, dismissing opener Kaushal Silva in the 12 overs Sri Lanka faced as the home side reached 26 for one at the close.
A day that saw Ben Stokes, batting at the key number three position, become the latest to fail also reinforced Buttler and Curran’s standing lower down the order.
England were in trouble against spinners Dilruwan Perera who took four wickets, Malinda Pushpakumara (three) and Akila Dananjaya (two) when Buttler came in to counter-attack with five boundaries and a crucial 45-run stand with Adil Rashid who made 31.
Buttler’s 63 off 67 deliveries ensured Sri Lanka did not convert a good position into a dominant one, as he swept and reverse swept furiously and effectively. He was eventually out top-edging a reverse sweep off left-arm spinner Pushpakumara, playing his first Test for more than a year.
Curran was even more important, taking 50 balls to reach double figures before he tore into the Sri Lankan bowling. He hit six sixes and a four off the spinners and his last wicket partnership of 60 with Jimmy Anderson was the best of the innings.
“It was crucial. You saw in the evening how much it spun. Getting close to 300 was massive for us,” said Curran.
“Me and Jimmy had quite a bit of fun out there. He was probably the one telling me to calm down and trust him.”
Stokes, who batted at number five in his team’s opening win last week, was boosted up the order in the latest bid to find a solid number three. Off-spinner Perera successfully reviewed an lbw decision against Stokes after the on-field umpire had turned down an appeal. He was out for 19.
England captain Joe Root, who scored 35 and three in the first Test, was bowled by Pushpakumara in the 18th over for 14 and opener Rory Burns (43) soon followed as England lost regular wickets on the dry, crumbling surface.
Curran said the wicket was fast breaking up and the cracks growing so England spinners must be looking forward to the second day. Ten of the 11 wickets to fall Wednesday went to spinners.
There were several near misses during the 12 overs Sri Lanka faced, with Karunaratne edging a ball just low and wide of slip off the bowling of Ali when he was on 12.
Leach then made the breakthrough at the other end, getting a ball to break sharply off the surface and beat Kaushal Silva’s forward defense, to rattle off stump — the batsman dismissed for 6.
Nightwatchman Pushpakumara then survived the 15 balls he faced before stumps.