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Savior Shreyas and Kanpur

shreyas Iyer test debut ind vs nz 1st test

2014.. It wasn’t exactly the best start for Mumbai’s Ranji season. Despite having some of the big names in their squad, they had lost their first match to Jammu and Kashmir, drew their second. It was a sort of must-win game for them as they took on Uttar Pradesh.

Shardul Thakur’s six-wicket haul in the first innings helped Mumbai to restrict UP for just 206. In return, Amit Mishra, Praveen Kumar and Ankit Rajpoot ran through Mumbai’s batting order, and the scoreboard read 5 for 53 as Shreyas Iyer walked in.

This was his debut season and his fourth innings in red-ball cricket. In his first three, Iyer’s highest score was 11. He knew his place was under threat. When he looked at the scoreboard, he knew he had to do something.

Young Iyer took the aggressive path. He began to take on bowlers to ease the pressure, and 11 fours and 75 runs later, he walked back with 75 runs. Thakur took off from where Iyer left, scored 87 and then grabbed three wickets. As a result, Mumbai won their first match of the season. It was the beginning of Iyer’s FC career too.

In the next match, he got a promotion to bat at number four, he replied with 153 and a couple of innings later, 142. Against Tamil Nadu, where the team lost by an innings and 44 runs, he was the lone warrior with half-centuries in both innings. Mumbai reached the semi-final that season and Iyer ended with 809 runs.

When people thought he would be yet another one-season wonder, he proved everyone wrong as he ended his second season with 1321 runs. With years, he became one of the top contenders for India’s white-ball number four. A leader in franchise cricket. When an injury affected his growth last year, he had to sit out, watch his team do well without him.

He knew he had to do something special to keep up his spot. He played a couple of saviour knocks for his franchise, and that’s it. When his name was announced for the Test, there were questions regarding his inclusion. Now, Iyer knew all these would happen. He knew he had to do something to prove his selection.

41 for 3 was the score when Shreyas Iyer walked in. His second delivery was a thick outside edge, went between slip and the keeper. A couple of deliveries later, Southee once again got better off Iyer. Beaten.
From the non-striker’s end, he watched Agarwal and Jadeja take a long walk back.

Ashwin got in ahead of Saha. The latter isn’t in the best of form either. His neck issue prevented him from keeping wickets in the first innings and nobody knew what Saha was upto in this game.

Poor delivery from Patel helped Iyer to steal a boundary while Ashwin got his timing right against Southee for a beautiful straight drive. In the same over, Southee bowled one down the legs, helped Iyer to grab another boundary.

As India looked like they were going for runs, Williamson brought Ravindra, probably, to tempt them more. Iyer was happy to defend them all. Front foot defence, a full stretch defence, nudges here and there.

As New Zealand opted for a wide slip and gully, Iyer was ready to free his arms, knowing that even a thick outside edge would go in between fielders. It did. Southee’s very first delivery in the 33rd over found a thick edge.

Risk-free singles and a boundary later, India got to their 100 and they kept defending as much as they can.

Williamson opted for a bowling change, brought Jamieson into the attack and in the second delivery, Ashwin’s inside edge kissed the stumps.

Saha finally entered the scene and was welcomed with a short delivery. Iyer, on the other hand, was making sure to hold his wicket but he did have his moments. A beautiful late cut past the slip fielder off Ravindra was one of them.

As they were grinding hard, Somerville gave Saha a bit of room to open up, he thanked him with a boundary and a six. Iyer took Patel’s invitation and took him for a six as well.

Moments later, a drive through the cover for a single took him to a brilliant fifty. He became just the third Indian man to reach fifty-plus in both innings. As Patel continued, Iyer continued too. He took him for a couple of boundaries and timed one well from Southee for yet another boundary.

As he set to pull his next delivery, an unfortunate edge ended his innings. 65 from 125 deliveries. 194 minutes of batting.

He left after taking the team to a fine position, and from thereon, Saha and tail-enders gave India a fighting lead.

From a 19-year-old boy who showed aggression in 2014 to a man who silently took team India to a fighting total, Shreyas Iyer has come a long way, and Kanpur is just lucky to witness both the knocks.

Just like how his career took a big turn after that knock seven ago, this could be the beginning of something special in red-ball cricket. Maybe.

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