Shubman Gill Takes The Giant Test Stride With Fluent 128 Against Australia

This was Shubman Gill's first Test century at home. (AP Photo)

This was Shubman Gill’s first Test century at home. (AP Photo)

Feet in the right place, Shubman Gill takes the giant stride forward in Test cricket with a sublime 128 in the first innings against Australia

Wow! That’s the only word which comes to mind on Shubman Gill’s dream run across formats since January 2023. With runs and tons in all formats, the right-hander has not put a foot wrong at top of the order and certainly had his feet in the right position during the sublime 235-ball 128 against Australia in the ongoing fourth Test in Ahmedabad. Conditions were ideal but Gill’s footwork was impeccable. Ball after ball, he would plant his front-foot forward and stamp authority on a pitch which allowed comfortable back-foot play but Gill was in the mood to dominate, and dictate.

Also Read: Ashwin Puts on a Spin Masterclass in Ahmedabad

Unlike the opposition opener Usman Khawaja, who was happy to sit on the back-foot and tuck deliveries off the hips, Gill was getting on top of them and smothering them on both sides of the wicket in the extended V. The opposition unfurled different plans, field placements and lines but Gill had a shot for every Steve Smith move.

The strip in Indore didn’t permit dominant front-foot play against spin but the true nature of the Ahmedabad surface ruled the bat-pad out of the picture and allowed Gill to be positive and busy. If it was the giant stride forward for full deliveries outside off, the right-hander was happy to sit back in the crease for short music and played them square like only he can. Gill and the jabs are a once in a generation kind of match and the audacity with which he cuts, to be fair it’s more jab than cut, makes you stand and applaud.

Gill and the jabs

If the jabs on the off-side are special, the ones towards the other side of the field are unreal. It was the 31st over of the innings and Mitchell Starc pulled his length back slightly with a pacey delivery. Gill waited and short-arm jabbed towards the mid-wicket region with utmost disdain. Starc couldn’t believe what he saw and quietly turned back with a smile on his face as he made his way back to the bowling mark. Gill certainly enjoyed that and had a big smile on his face.

What works for Gill in the jabs is his ability to pick the length early and then let his hands do the magic. The beauty of the jab is just that late check which generates most of the power, with the bottom hand, and allows him to direct it in front of square on both sides of the wicket. Frustrating for any captain to set fields for that but it was just that kind of day for Smith.

Smith was proactive with his fields for most part of the day and wasn’t waiting for things to happen, and instead wanted to make them happen. May it be the leg-side trap with Starc early on, men in catching positions on both sides for the mistimed drive or flick or asking the wicket-keeper to stand up to Cameron Green, Smith tried them all but couldn’t trap the 23-year-old Gill.

The dry spell

There was a period in play during the second session where runs had completely dried up from Gill’s bat and when he was batting on 78 off 170, only 13 came off the 51 he faced in the second session. The strike-rate dropped from 51 in the opening session to just 25 but he didn’t panic. He kept planting the front-foot ball after ball and was happy to wait for the scoring deliveries.

India went without a single boundary between the 40th and 56th over but Gill ended the wait with two gorgeous shots off Green. Both different but both very pleasing to the eye. The wicket-keeper was still up, just to keep the right-hander rooted to the crease because of his dominant front-foot play, and Green erred with the line and length and Gill pounced on that, and the delivery which followed. First it was the punch through covers and then it was the creaming cover-drive to a fullish delivery.

Busy period

The dry spell ended and Gill was back in the flow and amongst the runs. A couple of boundaries later, he got the chance to remove the helmet, put the smile back on his face and celebrate what was a brilliant hundred. The customary bow-down, which is now becoming his routine after every hundred – again which have been plenty this year, followed and Gill took fresh guard for the difficult part of making it big.

The trademark celebration. (AP Photo)

A busy little period of play followed after his hundred as Cheteshwar Pujara (42) was back in the hut and Virat Kohli entered with fresh energy. It was a nervy little start for the former Indian captain but the moment he got his eye in, the scoreboard started tickling and quick singles were accepted with both hands. Gill was responding to his senior partner’s close calls and showed he had enough gas in the tank even after the long day under the sun.

For a player who had beautifully countered spin with the front-foot play throughout the day, a slight lapse in concentration and probably one of the few instances where he went back, Gill was trapped in front by a Nathan Lyon delivery which spun enough to hit him in line of the stumps. The formalities were completed after the unsuccessful review and brought curtains down on a fine hundred by a young man who continues to take giant strides forward in the international arena.

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