Debutant Shreyas Iyer was guts, aggression and flair rolled into one during an unbeaten knock of 75, which was nothing short of a baptism by fire, as India ended on 258 for four on the first day of the opening Test against New Zealand here on Thursday.
On a pitch that had variable bounce and didn’t offer enough pace off it, Iyer put his best foot forward while facing 136 balls, hitting seven boundaries and two sixes on his very first day in office in the longest format.
Coming in at 106 for 3 at the fall of Cheteshwar Pujara’s (26 off 88 balls) wicket, the debutant, in another half an hour, found his skipper Ajinkya Rahane’s (33 off 65 balls) promising knock come to a halt as Kyle Jamieson (15.2-6-47-3) and Tim Southee (16.4-3-43-1) rocked the middle-order in inspiring post-lunch spells.
But at 144 for 4, Iyer took charge with senior all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (50 batting, 100 balls) for company as they resurrected the innings, at the same time batting with a lot of intent to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Jadeja scored his 17th Test fifty and did his trademark sword celebrations much to the delight of the crowd.
One doesn’t know if Sunil Gavaskar, while presenting the India Cap to Iyer, mentioned about a very special player to him. Someone, who had announced his arrival at this very ground 52 years back in 1969 against Bill Lawry’s Australia.
There are very few in Indian cricket who have received unadulterated love like Gavaskar’s illustrious brother-in-law Gundappa Viswanath. His hundred on debut at this very ground is a part of Indian cricket’s most warmly recounted folklores.
Shubman Gill (52 off 93 balls) did that with elan before perishing on a day when a hundred was there for the taking and he looked good to reach the landmark before Jamieson exposed the gap between his bat and pad.
But there was no stopping Iyer, who save a strong leg before appeal by Sommerville that turned out to be an Umpire’s Call, was ready to wait for the loose deliveries.
The 113-run unbroken partnership between Jadeja and Iyer might prove to be the winning one in the final analysis.
If Iyer’s debut innings was the brightest spot, comeback man Gill’s taking the attack back to the opposition camp in the first session couldn’t be seen in isolation either.