Tiwary stakes his claim for Test No. 6
Just as Yuvraj Singh appeared to be on his way to confirming his return to the Test squad, with an attacking knock for India A against England XI, he was beaten in the flight by offspinner Graeme Swann.
And by the end of the first day, despite Yuvraj having emerged as a frontrunner for that vacant No. 6 slot, Manoj Tiwary ensured the race had been expanded to a three-way duel. Tiwary joined Yuvraj and Suresh Raina as contenders, with a splendid 93 that helped lift a faltering India A to 369 for 9.
As Tiwary said, the England XI bowlers were not really at 100%, having arrived in India only a day earlier. In addition to that, their quickest bowler Steven Finn hurt his right quadriceps muscle early in the day and did not take the field thereafter. Yet, Tiwary's effort was impressive, because it came when the team needed it.
He took guard when India A were 140 for 4, with the captain Suresh Raina having joined M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Abhinav Mukund back in the pavilion. Soon after, Yuvraj's onslaught was over and the team was reduced to 168 for 5, with more than half the day's play remaining.
Tiwary, along with Irfan Pathan, ensured the England XI bowlers had to stay in the field all day long. He played both the spinners - Swann and left-arm bowler Samit Patel - with flair, a lofted inside-out drive that crossed the cover boundary in no time being his stand-out stroke.
Though he could not see off the second new ball, and was bowled by Tim Bresnan in the sixth over after it was taken, Tiwary had risen to the occasion. After all, despite being a regular in India's limited-overs squad over the past 18 months, Tiwary has hardly got any game time.
When it comes to Test selection, his plentiful runs on the domestic circuit have been overlooked due to the previous selectors' apparent belief that he isn't technically equipped to excel in the longest format at the highest level.
Tiwary admitted that watching "inspirational videos on YouTube" helps him keep going: "I do a random search and whatever comes my way, I watch it. I have seen Derek Redmond's [former British 400m runner] run; that gets me pumped up."
Tiwary has also been working on his legspin, to present a stronger case to the selectors. "If you are in the team, as days go by you know what to do. The best thing I did is that I worked hard in the nets and I worked on my bowling as well, because it is not easy to get into the Indian team nowadays, there is so much competition," he said. "I want to contribute in all the three departments, today the batting clicked and hopefully if the bowling comes up I will give my best."
He is ready, Tiwary said, to take the step up to the Test level. "There is competition for the No. 6 slot but it is up to the selectors to decide now. I tried my level best to do well for the team. Let's see what happens because there is still a long way to go. But I would say that I am ready for Test cricket."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo