x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Raina finally checks into Test cricket

The 23-year-old left-hander has had a long wait but Indian youngster has made debut count, writes Amith Passela.

Suresh Raina has been on the sidelines of Test cricket for too long and yesterday he proved he is as good a batsman at the top level as he is in the shorter version of the game. The 23-year-old left-hander joined an elite group of players to score a century on their Test debut. His 120 was the stand-out knock despite the double centuries from the great Sachin Tendulkar and Kumar Sangakkara.

It is a pity that Raina has to play second fiddle to some of the seniors Indian players, particularly as he is an outstanding fielder and a useful off-break bowler. But yesterday's performance should have given him confidence and the appreciation he needs from the selectors. In the company of Tendulkar, Raina played his part in leading India out of trouble. The pair shared a 256-run partnership for the fifth wicket to first avoid the follow-on and then get past the Sri Lankan first inning total. The last man to score a century on debut alongside Tendulkar was also a No 6, and Virender Sehwag has not done badly at all since then.

"I am very happy indeed to score a century on my Test debut," Raina, who hugged Tendulkar immediately upon reaching his hundred, said in a post-match television interview. "It was a great moment to win my first Test cap and to score a century was really a dream start." Raina may have been fortunate to bat in the company of Tendulkar. Raina walked in when his side were precariously placed at 241 for four. They ended the day on 669 for nine. It was a placid pitch where both teams scored 600-plus, yet Raina had to battle the odds of an imposing total ahead.

He played at a few wide deliveries in the nervous nineties and Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, should really have cranked up the pressure on the debutant and made him work hard for his century. Instead, one of the shrewdest tacticians in the game strangely opted to station fielders at long off, long on, deep square leg and deep point, allowing Raina to cruise to three figures. "It was a pretty easy wicket to bat on, but you still have to apply yourself to get a good score on the board," Raina said. "But in the company of Sachin, I was more at ease. When he walks up to me to talk, it gives me a lot of confidence and he also guided me throughout my knock."

Having passed his first test impressively, Raina will be subject to tougher assignments for the remainder of the tour. He is well established in the one-day format, having played 98 times since making his debut against Sri Lanka in July 2005. Now he has had the perfect start in Tests. Raina was not short of confidence on his maiden appearance in Test cricket and he hit the first six of the Indian innings, lifting Suraj Randiv, the spinner, over the mid-off and later going down on one knee to loft him over the mid wicket for his second six.

The shot he played to reach his century came off the sweet spot of the bat. Raina leaned over a length delivery on the off-side from Dammika Prasad to punch it away to the long off fence. But the batsmen have made a combined score of 1,311 runs for the loss of 13 wickets over the four days, the game seems to be heading for a draw. apassela@thenational.ae

Player Runs Opposition Ground Year L Amarnath 118 England Mumbai 1933 D Shodhan 110 Pakistan Kolkata 1952 K Singh 100* New Zealand Hyderabad 1955 A Baig 112 England Manchester 1959 H Singh 105 England Delhi 1964 G Viswanath 137 Australia Kanpur 1969 S Amarnath 124 New Zealand Auckland 1976 M Azharuddin 110 England Kolkata 1984 P Amre 103 South Africa Durban 1992 S Ganguly 131 England Lord's 1996 V Sehwag 105 South Africa Bloemfontein 2001 S Raina 120 Sri Lanka Colombo 2010