India vs New Zealand: Shreyas Iyer makes most of the opening

Express News Service

BENGALURU: A full-strength India generally means a strong batting department, which includes the likes of Virat Kohli, KL Rahul among others. Even proven domestic cricketers fail to break open the Test playing XI door with the mountain of runs behind them. The situation has become even more complicated with World Test Championship points in the offing for all series. It means unless there is a forced break, the opportunities are limited for new players.

It is only when seniors opt for rest or players get injured, other options are considered. In fact, it is the combination of both, which helped Shreyas Iyer make his Test debut against New Zealand in the first match in Kanpur on Thursday, November 25, 2021. Given the competition for places, each opportunity is huge. Even a good outing doesn’t ensure you would get to wear the Test whites regularly. But it will surely keep those regulars on their toes and that is what Shreyas did in his maiden Test outing. The Mumbaikar man, who averages 52 in first class cricket, grabbed his opportunity with both hands, scoring an unbeaten 75 to steer India to 258/4 before bad light stopped play on Day 1 at Green Park Stadium.

The 26-year-old only got a chance to feature in the playing XI after Rahul was ruled out of the two-match series. It meant opener Shubman Gill could bat in his regular position while Shreyas was slotted in the middle order. With the stand-in captain, Ajinkya Rahane making it official about Shreyas’ debut a day before the game, it helped him prepare mentally too. His half-century came at the right time and gives the selectors and the team management to consider him as an alternate option. With the South Africa tour lined up, his innings will surely put more pressure on Rahane (35) and Cheteshwar Pujara (26) who again failed to convert their starts.

Shreyas, who walked into bat after Pujara was dismissed, and even before he could get off the mark, had a lucky escape when his mishit fell in almost no man’s land. That did not stop him from playing his natural game. A few balls later he smashed a powerful aerial four off Ajaz Patel. Such audacity should not come as a surprise with the man known for playing his shots as his FC strike rate of 81.54 suggests.

But then, he also showed decent respect to pacers Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee, especially after the former dismissed Rahane with only 145 on board. With only all-rounder’s for the company and with India needing a big total, Shreyas shouldered responsibility. Shelving his aggressive game, he played a measured innings with Ravindra Jadeja. The striking aspect during this phase was how he never let bowlers get on top of him. His ability to put bad balls away for boundary meant, the Kiwi attack couldn’t sustain pressure for prolonged periods.

Once Jadeja also got his eye in, the duo began to dominate proceedings post-tea with the left-hander completing his half-century in 99 balls. They scored 104 runs in the third session, which comprised 28 overs, helping the team end on a high. However, one needs to give credit to the way Gill laid the platform with a brilliant 93-ball 52. He survived a tough first hour of play when Jamieson threatened to take a wicket every over.

“He (Jamieson) bowled well today, especially the spell with the new ball. He bowled in good areas,” said Gill, who is expecting Shreyas and Jadeja to help India post a good total. “The way Shreyas batted in his Test debut, especially after we lost three wickets in the second session (was good)….he was involved in a very good partnership for the team with Jadeja. I hope they will do the same tomorrow and post a good total too.”

India 1st innings: Agarwal c Blundell b Jamieson 13, Gill b Jamieson 52, Pujara c Blundell b Southee 26, Rahane b Jamieson 35, Shreyas (batting) 75, Jadeja (batting) 50, Extras: (b1, lb1, w1, nb4) 7, Total: 258/4 in 84 overs, FoW: 1-21, 2-82, 3-106, 4-145, Bowling: Southee 16.4-3-43-1, Jamieson 15.2-6-47-3, Patel 21-6-78-0, Somerville 24-2-60-0, Ravindra 7-1-28-0.

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