After KL Rahul was ruled out of the series with a thigh muscle strain, the toss up was between Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav, who was a late addition to the Indian Test squad. The team management went with Shreyas and he has repaid their faith in him, with an unbeaten 75 off 136 balls after Day 1 of the first Test vs New Zealand.
New coach Rahul Dravid who has worked with Iyer at the India-A level would have liked what he saw. An attacking middle order batting option is one thing the team wants to have.
When India play at home they are always the overwhelming favourites. Just ask the Kiwis – who have been touring India since 1955 but are yet to win a Test series here. But on Day 1 of the Kanpur Test though the Kiwis didn’t allow India to run roughshod over them in the first two sessions. The first session produced 81 runs and one wicket and the second saw 72 runs being scored and 3 wickets falling.
Though it was a good toss to win by stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane and the likes of Shubman Gill (52 off 93) and Ajinkya Rahane (35 off 63) put up good performances, the visitors did not allow any huge partnership to be formed (till before Iyer and Jadeja got together). The second wicket partnership between Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara was worth 61. Both Gill and Rahane ideally should have stayed on longer at the crease. Mayank Agarwal and Pujara got starts, but did not capitalise on them as India found themselves at 145-4 and in a bit of trouble.
Shreyas Iyer. (AFP Photo)
The 6 foot 8 inch tall Kyle Jamieson stood head and shoulders above all other Kiwi bowlers, both literally and metaphorically, with figures of 3-47. Agarwal, Gill and Rahane all fell to Jamieson, who is quickly becoming a very reliable bowler across formats. In the World Test Championship final vs India in June this year, which New Zealand won by 8 wickets, Jamieson had match figures of 7-61 and walked away with the Man of the Match award.
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Jamieson and what he did to the Indian batting line up on Day 1 in Kanpur is what makes Iyer’s contribution with the bat in his very first Test innings, batting at number 5, all the more important.
Iyer by nature is an attacking player. His first-class batting strike rate is 81.54. He likes the ball to come on to the bat. In Kanpur though he didn’t get a pitch like that.The first 7 deliveries he faced were dots. His first scoring shot was one that was played to try and go over the top. The ball from Ajaz Patel turned and Iyer only managed to slice it. He got very lucky that it didn’t balloon in the sky for Kane Williamson to take a catch. The Kiwi captain ran back from mid-off but couldn’t reach the ball. Iyer took 2 runs, but more importantly survived. Two more dot balls followed and then off the last ball of the 41st over Iyer hit Patel over midwicket for his first boundary in Test cricket. It was a confident shot and one that must have helped him breathe much better. From there on he appeared more composed.
Despite his naturally attacking instincts, the 26 year old had to show patience – a quality that every single good Test batsman must have – and he did that by and large. He did get lucky at times and might want to curb the urge to hit the spinners over the top every chance he gets. The pitch in Kanpur, according to the curator, is likely to start turning a fair bit from Day 2.
The Kiwis would have ideally liked to have taken at least another wicket of not two with the second new ball.
Ravindra Jadeja also deserves special mention for his knock on the opening day of the Test match. His 50 not out off 100 balls and the unbeaten 113 run fifth wicket stand between Iyer is what really helped India end the day with the upper hand.
Come Day 2 and both Iyer and Jadeja would want to pick up from where they left off on Day 1.
Before he puts on his game face ahead of Day 2, Iyer can allow himself to smile. His very first outing in Test cricket has been an impressive one.