DEHRADUN: As the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehradun hosted its inaugural international match on Sunday evening, the Afghanistan trio — Rashid Khan Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi — provided the 20,000 odd crowd a wonderful spectacle of world-class spin bowling. Defending 167 against the experienced Bangladesh batting line-up, the Afghan spinners were on a rampage as they took 6 for 54 in 11 overs, which helped Afghanistan to win the first of the three T20Is by a handsome margin of 45 runs.

Off the field in many ways, it was a chaotic debut for the ground. For security reasons (read that the inexperience of how to organise an international match) spectators and media persons had to walk almost four kilometers to reach the stadium. Inside, there was a scarcity of food and water. In the press box, basic facilities like laptop charging point and network connectivity were not available initially. On several occasions, I felt, it was a premature decision on part of the ICC to provide international status to this venue.

However, amid all these difficulties the on-field performance of the Afghans, especially their bowlers, made our misery less painful.

Going into this series, it was known to everyone that Afghanistan’s slow bowling would be the key factor. And in the very first game, it turned out to be true as the Afghan spin-trio literally won them the game thanks to some brilliant on-field display.

To start with, it was an impressive captaincy on part of the Afghan skipper Asghar Stanikzai to start with the finger-spin of Mujeeb, who, through his impressive show in the recent editions of the Under-19 World Cup and Indian Premier League, has made a reputation for himself for being a strike bowler. And the 17-year old struck in the very first ball of the Bangladesh run-chase, trapping Tamim Iqbal LBW for nought.

Following the early breakthrough, when Bangladesh look to steady the ship, it was the off-spin of Nabi, who brought his team back in the game with the two crucial wickets of Liton Das, for 30, and star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, for 15. The visitors were reduced to 3 for 64.

Quite impressively, Stanikzai held his trump card Rashid back till the end of the first 10 overs. And in the 11th over, when he was introduced, much to the delight of the crowd, the leggie responded immediately with two back to back breakthroughs — Mushfiqur Rahim and Sabbir Rahman — which broke the backbone of Bangladesh batting.

On that slowish wicket, the Afghan spinners literally make Bangladesh batsmen dance to their tunes. They hit the bowl a little back of a length spot, allowed the ball to grip the surface and it did the trick. The Bangladeshis had no clue, how to deal with the quality the of Afghan spin-trio. Their economy rate (Mujeeb 4 overs for 20, Nabi four overs for 21 and Rashid 3 overs for just 13) is a testament to this statement.

Each fall of wicket was followed by spirited victory celebrations by the Afghans, much to the delight of the crowd. The “R-A-S-H-I-D, R-A-S-H-I-D” cheers from the stands were acknowledged by the man himself with a ‘Man of the Match’ bowling effort (3 for 13 in 3 overs).

Following their IPL heroics, the crowd came to see the Rashids and the Mujeebs. Well, in the end, they went home fully satisfied.