Prithvi Shaw rode on his exuberance and flamboyance to register a Test ton in his debut game as India cantered to 232 for 3 at Tea on the opening day of the first Test against Windies in Rajkot on Thursday (October 4). Though India did lose Cheteshwar Pujara (86) and Shaw (134) in the session, the pair’s 206-run second-wicket stand kept India well ahead in the contest.
India added 99 runs, after going to Lunch at 133 for 1, with the visiting bowlers struggling to build any sort of pressure. The only blip in India’s innings so far remains the four-ball duck bagged by KL Rahul in the very first over of the Test. Shannon Gabriel teased Rahul for three deliveries before trapping him in front on the fourth. The opener went for the review, a pretty poor decision just like his half prod, to hand Windies some early confidence. However, Shaw and Pujara battered the inexperienced bowling line-up sans Jason Holder and Kemar Roach to ease India to a comfortable position.
Windies, just like the first session, started the second one poorly. Twenty runs were scored in the first two overs after the break. Shaw had, by then, raced past the 90-run mark and looked set for ton on debut. The landmark came in the 33rd over when he drove a full ball to sweeper cover to reach the ton off 99 deliveries. He became the second-youngest Indian to score a Test match ton, after Sachin Tendulkar.
All this while Pujara too continued to milk runs and put the bowlers under pressure. The first break for Windies in the session came when Sherman Lewis had Pujara caught behind in the 43rd over. Caught in two minds, Pujara just poked at a harmless delivery to hand the debutant his first wicket in Test cricket. Virat Kohli walked out to resounding applause from the partisan crowd as India found themselves controlling the game on the first day itself. The Kohli-Shaw stand didn’t last long as the latter chipped a delivery back to Devendra Bishoo to give Windies the second break in the session. He walked off disappointed but gave ample proof of the promise he holds.
Earlier in the day, Windies were handed an unkind cut even before the contest began. Already without Kemar Roach, they fielded an XI without their regular captain Jason Holder, who sustained an ankle injury and failed to pass the fitness test. The toss went Virat Kohli’s way and that meant they were forced into a grind. Even ahead of the series, the spotlight was fixed on Shaw. As the selectors look to get a move on from Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, they have just two Tests to figure out their openers for the all-important series in Australia.
Shaw got off the mark with a beautiful punch past point on the second ball he faced in Test cricket. He laid to rest any thoughts of a good Windies show with his dominating and authoritative strokeplay. The absence of Holder and Roach had already left a big gap between the two sides and Shaw’s assault left the visitors gasping. Keemo Paul was never allowed to settle down while Sherman Lewis, on debut as well, was handed a thrashing in the three overs he bowled. Shaw’s first boundary – a well-timed punch – came in the second over against Paul and that got him going. The same bowler was taken to the cleaners in the fourth over as Shaw smashed three boundaries to race to 22 off 16.
Pujara, at the other end, did what he does best and blocked. Not getting carried away by the positive approach by the youngster, Pujara took his time to get going. Shaw’s exuberance forced Kraigg Brathwaite on the defensive pretty early as the field spread in the sixth over itself. Despite that, Shaw gave ample proof of his strong game square of the wicket and picked up boundaries at will. Brathwaite used five bowlers in the first session but handed just four overs to Gabriel in his first spell. As the session progressed, the pitch eased out even further leaving the Windies bowlers short of ideas. The captain was also guilty of denying longer spells to his bowlers.
India’s 50 was completed in the 11th over as Shaw looked to dominate Bishoo. The high backlift, the punchy pushes, the fluent drives and crafty flicks all were unleashed on the Windies bowlers as the 18-year old raced to his half-century off 56 deliveries. He became the youngest to score a fifty on Test debut for India after Ali Baig, who did it in England in 1959. However, the most impressive aspect of the Mumbai-born was that he refused to get carried away. Make no mistake, Pujara wasn’t too far behind. But as has been the case, his innings was overshadowed by the flamboyance of his partner.
Brief scores: India 232/3 (Prithvi Shaw 134, Cheteshwar Pujara 86) vs Windies.