Shreyas Iyer has played 30 of his 51 T20 matches as an opener. His average of 30.78 as an opener is better than his career average of 27.26, as is his strike rate - 132 as against a career strike-rate of 128.87. Seven of his eight half-centuries before Wednesday had also come from that position. It was a role he had been playing for Delhi Daredevils for two years since getting picked up by them for INR 2.6 crore at the 2015 auction. But after a promising debut season, his form dwindled last year and he ended up playing only six games. He floated around the top-order in the Inter-State and Inter-Zonal T20 leagues earlier in the year, and his campaign was a mixed one at best.
Iyer was subsequently handed a new role in the middle order for the ongoing season. He had a few good scores, but nothing that made people sit up and take notice. Before Wednesday, his two best knocks hadn't translated into wins for his team. When he walked out against Gujarat Lions in Kanpur, Daredevils had lost two quick wickets in a steep chase of 196. By the time he was finished, he had taken Daredevils to the brink, leaving them with just seven to get.
Iyer was a picture of calm and played an innings that oozed class and quality to flatten Lions after they had eased into a position of strength. Iyer paced his innings to a T, ensuring Daredevils' required rate never got out of hand. He didn't lose his head even when the loss of wickets at the other end threatened to derail the chase. Not only was Iyer ruthless in feasting on errors in length, he was fleet of foot and pierced the gaps on the field with laser-guided precision. After raising a fifty off 33 balls, he shifted gears to blitz 45 more off 24 balls. Well on course to seeing his team through, Iyer dragged Basil Thampi on to his stumps, four short of becoming the third-youngest IPL centurion.
The wow moment
Iyer had been quick to capitalise on width and pummel a few square of the wicket. But when James Faulkner tucked him for room in the tenth over, Iyer showed his deftness by opening the face of his bat just late enough to steal a brace of boundaries through third man. If the first one had been a guide that went very fine of third man, the second was even better. Faulkner pitched one on a length and Iyer dabbed it late enough to beat the wicketkeeper - who dove to his right - and fine enough to beat third man getting across to his left.
Stats that matter
With his 96 on Wednesday, Iyer bettered his previous highest score in T20 cricket - 86 for Mumbai against Vidarbha in the 2015-16 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Iyer's 15 fours are the highest in one innings this season.
What they said
"I'd have been more happy with finishing the game. I wasn't thinking much about my hundred, I decided at the start I would bat till the end. Hundred doesn't matter, winning the game does. I was just trying to time the ball, was getting the ball in my areas. two matches left, let's hope I get two more Man of the Matches."
"There is always a career changing innings in a young batsman's life. Let's hope this one is Shreyas Iyer's."
Sanjay Manjrekar on Twitter