On the eve of the second Test in Visakhapatnam, Virat Kohli had hinted there might be a surprise in the India XI, but not even he would have thought the rabbit he pulled out of the hat could become such a hit. Jayant Yadav, on Test debut, provided his team with vital lower-order runs and then conjured a wicket out of nowhere in the field, and even made excellent use of the DRS..
India finished the second day with a lead of 352 runs. That is massive enough on its own, but add to it England ending the day five down on a pitch that has been encouraging variable bounce and turn and there is little question over who has the upper hand. Jayant, a 26-year old offspin-bowling allrounder from Haryana, played no small part in tipping the balance. His first contribution was with the bat, showing stout defence against England's spinners and the stomach for a fight against their fast bowlers, who targeted him with the short ball.
"Since the time I remember, since I have started playing serious cricket, not in the streets but in an academy, I have dreamt of this day," he told Star Sports after stumps. "This dressing room is full of people who make you comfortable. KL Rahul, a recent debutant, told me what to expect on debut. It's good I didn't do anything yesterday, gave me time to process the emotions and formulate my plans."
Also contributing to Jayant's composure on the field was an old friend.
"Me and Jayant go a long way back actually," R Ashwin said at the post-match press conference. "Two-three years ago he came down to Chennai, he was staying near my house for about two weeks. He practised with me and I know the boy really well. He is someone who can really understand what I say and we have a very, very good rapport. I felt really happy for him, the way he came out and batted positively. His body language was great. Every bit of communication between us was auguring into the partnership getting deeper, so I kind of enjoyed it. Very happy for him to have got his first wicket as well."
The two of them put on a 64-run partnership for the eighth wicket that took India to 455. Jayant made that total look a lot bigger in the 21st over of the England innings, when he instigated a fantastic run-out. Joe Root placed a flick to the right of midwicket, from where Jayant made good ground to catch up with the ball. Only, instead of stopping, steadying himself and then throwing, he took another step forward, leapt up, and hurled a throw at the wicketkeeper's end, having rotated his body to face the striker's end.
Root, having watched all this, changed his mind about a second run and his partner Haseeb Hameed, who had come halfway down, couldn't scramble back in time. Wriddhiman Saha also had a hand in the dismissal, running forward to collect the ball and flicking it back onto the stumps, much like his predecessor MS Dhoni.
"Sometimes these kind of games are broken through run-outs," Ashwin said. "And more than anything else, somebody like Jayant who is making his debut and getting such momentum through a run-out and then later on going to get a wicket, really happy for him."
To cap it off, Jayant took his first Test wicket - Moeen Ali, lbw. The batsman had been down the pitch when he was struck on the pad, which factored into umpire Dharmasena's on-field call of not out, but Jayant felt he was struck in line. Saha must have known Moeen hadn't charged out too far and together they convinced Kohli to go for a review. It came back as three reds.
"With the review, Wriddhiman Saha did the job of convincing the captain for me," Jayant told Star Sports. "We both thought it was out. Can't wait to start doing this again tomorrow."