The Australia ‘A’ pacers seemed to be weary and merely going through the motions at the end of the day at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and Pant gave the team management something to think about as he hammered 22 runs off the last over, bowled by tired-looking right-arm medium pacer Jack Wildermuth, to complete his century.
In all probability, the team management may have already settled on Wriddhiman Saha as the main wicketkeeper for the pink-ball Test in Adelaide starting December 17. Pant, however, made it clear with his strokeplay that he will be up for the challenge if given an opportunity.
Hanuma Vihari, who will be India’s No. 6 for the Test, also made a statement of intent with a polished 104*, negotiating a difficult phase when the lights were coming on. He was his usual disciplined self, looking to play within the ‘V’ and using his feet well against the spinners.
Vihari, even under lights when the ball tends to move a bit more, looked assured outside the off-stump and comfortably left deliveries as India raced away to 386/4 at the end of Day 2, the overall lead being 472 with a day to go.
While Pant and Vihari made the day their own by stumps, the most telling innings came from Shubhman Gill, who batted at No. 3 and scored a polished 65. While the team management was more or less decided about their other slots for the Test match going into the practice game, the second opener’s position, along with Mayank Agarwal, was still open, with Prithvi Shaw and Gill in the reckoning.
But judging by what has been on offer till now in the two practice matches, it seems Gill stands a better chance of making the Adelaide cut.
During his 58-ball 43 in the first innings and 78-ball 65 in the second, Gill has looked more assured than Shaw. The fact that the Aussie pacers got Shaw out in the gully trap in the second innings with one just short of good length may be a cause of concern for the management.
Straight bat ☑️High elbow ☑️Head still ☑️Getting on top of the bounce ☑️@RealShubmanGill ticking the technical… https://t.co/qfSOFNaJ9q
— Wasim Jaffer (@WasimJaffer14) 1607751723000
“Gill looked more comfortable than Shaw. He was crisp with his driving and didn’t look perturbed one bit by the short ball. The only thing that needs to be seen is how he deals with the movement once the lights come on,” former India opener Deep Dasgupta said.
Outgoing national selector Devang Gandhi, too, stressed on the reasons why they picked Gill in the first place.
“Look, at his performances across formats in the last two years. He has been very consistent wherever he has played and is definitely one for the future,” Gandhi told TOI.
💯! We have the first centurion of the three-day pink ball game and it is @Hanumavihari who completes a fine centu… https://t.co/PlsfzmzpBN
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1607771415000
While he didn’t want to get into the Shaw-vs-Gill debate for the first Test, saying both are “very talented”, the selector feels Gill lends a lot of flexibility to the team.
“He can bat in the middle-order as well as an opener. He has done that for the teams he has played for and Gill provides this Indian team with the problem of plenty,” Gandhi added.
Gill, on his part, hardly put a foot wrong on Saturday. Another former India opener Wasim Jaffer explained in his tweet how correct the Punjab boy was in the way he went about his job.
“Straight bat, high elbow, head still, getting on top of the bounce. Shubhman Gill ticking the technical boxes and in some style,” Jaffer tweeted about the batsman’s game on Saturday.
💯A cracking first-class century from @RishabhPant17 in just 73 balls at the SCG. He smashes 22 off the final over… https://t.co/Hyrhkdy7k2
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1607773339000
The fact that Aussie legend Allan Border found shades of VVS Laxman and Mohammed Azharuddin in Gill’s onside play was also a vindication of the easy elegance that was on offer.
Gill was well on his way towards a century when a questionable decision by the umpire off leggie Mitchell Swepson’s straighter one brought an end to his innings, but by then the 21-year-old had made his point.
Brief Scores: Indians 194 and 386/4 (Vihari 104*, Pant 103*) lead Australia ‘A’ 108 by 472 runs