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“With the England tour being around the corner, the Test squad is yet to be announced. And Vijay has got a ton just at the right time”

India romped home with a convincing victory in the one-off Test against Afghanistan at Bangalore. They won the Test handsomely by an innings and 262 runs; Afghanistan didn’t get the desired start to their Test voyage and have a long way to go from here on. India put up a collective show to register an emphatic win as their bowlers wreaked havoc after the batsmen posted required runs.

Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay fired with all cylinders to get their side off to a flying start. Dhawan feasted on Afghani spinners and scripted a record-breaking century in the very first session of Day 1. However, Murali Vijay showed extreme composure to score a tenacious century at the other end. The duo accounted for 168 runs for the opening stand and put Afghanistan on the back foot right at the outset in Bangalore.

Vijay needed some big runs under his belt, he didn’t have a great run in South Africa. With Dhawan and KL Rahul being equally active for the openers race the slot is always there to be grabbed. He desperately needed a century against Afghanistan to avoid any speculations regarding his spot for the England tour. It’s not that his position was in jeopardy, but the possibility is always there when other batsmen’s willows are yielding runs.

Dhawan was on fire, he launched an attack on the limited Afghanistan’s bowling attack, which was primarily based on three spinners. Prior to the match, there were talks about Afghani spinners’ potential and ability to do well in Tests too. But Dhawan’s manic approach helped him dominate the spinners.

Afghanistan spinners, especially Rashid Khan and Mujeeb had done well in the shorter formats and were coming fresh from a successful stint in the recently concluded Indian Premier League. They had played in Indian conditions for a very long time now, and their fans expected them to do well in their maiden Test. But Test match is a different ball game altogether and Dhawan, Vijay showed how any room for error can be punished. Although the spinners struck back in the final session, but the damage was done by then.

Talking about Vijay, he is known for his monk-like temperament across conditions. Despite Dhawan being on fire, Vijay didn’t get carried away and played his natural game. The bowling had loopholes, but he stuck to his guns and didn’t go overboard. A batsman often gets carried away when his partner is scoring runs at a brisk pace. But Vijay’s innings was a fine example of calculated-aggression and astute defence.

With the help of 15 boundaries and a maximum, Vijay scored a much-needed 105. He capitalised on Afghanistan’s limited bowling attack and after Dhawan’s fall, he punished the spinners from both the ends. This was his 12th Test ton and a much-needed one. He was caught leg before by Wafadar when he didn’t offer any shot.

Vijay has been one of the pillars of strength in this format, scoring crucial runs and wearing out the new ball. But his run in South Africa was ordinary. He didn’t get a single fifty in his last seven Test innings. Opening batting against the red ball is undoubtedly one of the toughest jobs in Test cricket, but Vijay’s poor performance in South Africa certainly raised many eyebrows.

In South Africa, Vijay kept fiddling with deliveries outside off and often paid the price for it. His strength lies in leaving deliveries and making the bowler bowl to him. He has a knack of scoring the tough runs and has been a consistent performer overseas. His batting is based on sound technique and needed a push to regain confidence. This outing against Afghanistan would have certainly done that.

With the England tour being around the corner, the Test squad is yet to be announced. And Vijay has got a ton just at the right time. India have had a torrid time in England and will be seeking revival of fortunes in this tour. England has been a difficult land for openers and it will be interesting to see if Vijay manages to replicate his magical performance in taxing English conditions.

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