Gill, Pujara crack centuries to set Bangladesh a massive target

Dec 16, 2022 11:10 PM IST

With another transition not so far away, Shubman Gill’s maiden Test hundred bodes well for India

Shubman Gill scored his maiden Test hundred and Cheteshwar Pujara struck his first hundred since January 2019 as India tightened their control on the first Test in Chattogram, declaring on 258/2 on Friday. At stumps on Day 3, Bangladesh were 42/0, still needing another 471 runs to pull off an unlikely victory. India, on the other hand, still have six sessions to breeze to what should be a comfortable win despite Bangladesh’s promising finish.

Apart from helping Gill reach his century, those two boundaries also raised the hundred-run stand between him and Pujara(BCCI Twitter)
Apart from helping Gill reach his century, those two boundaries also raised the hundred-run stand between him and Pujara(BCCI Twitter)

Resuming the day on 133/8, Bangladesh added only 17 runs before Kuldeep Yadav got Ebadot Hossain caught down the leg side in the fifth over of the day to complete his third five-wicket haul. Mehidy Hasan Miraz fronted Bangladesh’s resistance for another seven overs before he skipped down the track to attack Axar Patel but was stumped in the process.

Despite a massive 254-run lead, India decided against enforcing follow-on. It was presumably done to give the fast bowlers some rest but it’s also not a secret that some batters were long due runs. Pujara and Gill, for totally different reasons, were two of them.

Pujara’s career is on its last legs. But when you revisit Gill’s numbers — 30.47 average in 11 Tests before this — and the fact that he has been in the 90s only one other time (at Gabba in that epic chase of 2021), you wonder if Gill has been flattering to deceive the opportunities to have gone his way. You don’t have to go too far to feel that. In the first innings, Gill was in full flow till he needlessly went for a paddle sweep so early that the slip had time to run around towards the leg side.

This time, Gill ensured he got the first hundred — always the toughest pursuit for any batter — out of his way. “I personally thought it (maiden Test century) was a long time coming for me. Today, it was all about getting the difficult situation out of the way,” Gill told the broadcasters after the end of day’s play.

Chattogram was neither Gabba nor Southampton in the inaugural World Test Championship final where Gill had shown great application against a top-notch New Zealand seam attack in overcast conditions. Bangladesh were deflated, and the pitch had eased out. Still, bat had to be put to the ball, runs had to be scored. And Gill did it as cleanly as possible while being aware that this hundred may not still elevate him to a permanent opener’s position, not while Rohit Sharma is around, but would definitely bode well for India’s future as they head towards another transition.

Gill’s start, unlike his other innings, was considerably slower. But once he went into the 20s, Gill improved his scoring rate. "When lunch happened, my first 50 balls I was batting at around 13," Gill said. "By the time I had faced 100 balls, I was about 70. It was all about pacing the innings and knowing when to attack. Because the bowlers are going to get tired after a particular period of time. As a batter you have to know when is the right time to attack.”

Nineties are not normally when you take risks. But Gill did exactly that, reverse-sweeping Miraz when on 95 before lofting him over mid-off to reach his hundred. "There weren't too many different thoughts,” Gill said. “It was all about how I can get to my hundred. For me it was all about how I can play according to the field. See where they are trying to bowl to me, and to be able to score runs from there. It was very instinctive when the bowler went round the wicket, and I saw a gap between point and third man and I went for the reverse sweep, which was quite unconventional. I didn't play a reverse-sweep in the whole innings and then I thought I will play the reverse sweep because the fielders weren't there. And then once the field was up, I knew a ball in my area, I would hit it over the top."

Apart from helping Gill reach his century, those two boundaries also raised the hundred-run stand between him and Pujara, who also hit his fastest-ever hundred (strike rate of 78.46) to take India to an indomitable position. Najmul Hossain and debutant Zakir Hasan will resume on 25 and 17 respectively on Saturday but given how the game has panned out, Bangladesh need nothing less than a miracle to save this Test.

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    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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