TEST: Prithvi’s debut ton headlines India’s dominance

SUMMARY: India 364-4 (Shaw 134, Pujara 86, Kohli 72*, Gabriel 1-66) v West Indies


It was coming, wasn’t it? After racking up the records in school cricket and domestic cricket, 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw marked his Test debut with a commanding 99-ball hundred – the third fastest (in terms of balls) on debut. Shaw also became the youngest Indian – and fourth overall – to hit a century on debut.

He smashed more records and a depleted West Indies attack at the SCA ground in Rajkot, where he had cracked a ton in his maiden first-class game in January 2017.

The local boy Cheteshwar Pujara was happy to ride in Shaw’s slipstream – although he struck at 66.15 – and seemed set for a hundred of his own, but fell 14 short, when the other debutant Sherman Lewis had him nicking off. Captain Virat Kohli, returning to the side after being rested for the Asia Cup, made an unbeaten 72 off 137 balls to cement India’s dominance.

Not so long ago, Shaw himself had admitted to his technique not being the most perfect. Yet, he’s found ways to thrive by trusting his strong back-foot strokeplay. This was on display in his first knock in Test cricket: he picked off 76 of his 134 runs in front of square on either side of the wicket.

Shaw’s first runs came via a crisp back-foot punch through the covers, and his first boundary came via an even crisper back-foot punch through point. The punchy shots weren’t just reserved for the back foot. Shaw also crunched the ball on the up off the front foot whenever West Indies’ seamers overpitched.

Cheteshwar Pujara cuts during his knock on the opening day in Rajkot (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Having progressed to his first fifty off 56 balls, he cranked up the tempo further and raised his second off 43 balls. His celebratory fist pump perhaps wasn’t as punchy as his shots, but it still made Kohli and Rahane stand up and applaud in unison from the dressing room.

KL Rahul, the senior opener, had fallen to a sharp inducker from Shannon Gabriel for a duck in the first over. The recent trend of Rahul falling to incoming deliveries has been of particular concern for India: he has now been out lbw or bowled in his last eight Test innings. He also burned a review when replays confirmed that the 143.5kph thunderbolt would’ve crashed into middle and leg.

Pujara, for a change, didn’t have to grind for his runs. He eased himself in with three fours in four balls, including a trademark bottom-handed drive that purred away straight of mid-on. He even flicked a bottle of water out of his pocket and sipped coolly on it. A half-volley here, a half-tracker there, and West Indies were feeling the heat – both literally and figuratively – on a 39-degree day in Rajkot.

That they were without three of their frontline quicks played a part. Alzarri Joseph continues to recover from a stress fracture of the back suffered late last year. Kemar Roach has not yet rejoined the team after leaving the tour following the death of his grandmother, and captain Jason Holder also pulled out with an ankle injury on the morning of the match. Kraigg Brathwaite led the visitors in Holder’s absence.

West Indies, though, found some respite when Lewis removed Pujara to end a 206-run stand and Devendra Bishoo had Shaw chipping a return catch for 134 off 154 balls, two minutes before tea.

The leg-spinner tightened up after the break and bothered Rahane with turn – or the lack of it. Rahane was also uncertain against the extra pace of Gabriel before unfurling a velvet-smooth straight drive off the fast bowler.

At the other end, Kohli was more sure-footed, and kept his side ticking with risk-free shots. He was only beaten twice, in 137 balls, and his stand with Rahane grew to 105 before Chase found Rahane’s bottom edge with one that skidded away from around the wicket.

West Indies took the second new ball in the next over, but Kohli and Rishabh Pant, who ventured a couple of aerial hooks, saw out the day without any further hiccups. (ESPNCricinfo)

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