As Deepak Hooda glided Iresh Saxena behind square on the leg side two balls before tea, the whole Baroda dressing room stood up to applaud the 19-year-old's feat of scoring a century on first-class debut. With his back to the dressing room, Hooda first raised his bat to the far corner of the field before turning back and acknowledging the robust applause of his team-mates and handful of spectators.
Behind a tree at the far end, Hooda's family - his parents and brother - had a sense of fulfilment on their faces. "I had told them before I left for the ground in the morning that I would score a century. I am delighted to have lived up to the promise," Hooda said after the day's play of Baroda's Ranji Trophy opener against Bengal on Tuesday.
Having displayed a glimpse of his talent with consistent performances during the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year, Hooda entered the season as one of the youngsters to look forward to. His knock assured that he was ready to absorb the pressure. He admitted that the confidence of having played for India Under-19 and West Zone one-dayers for Baroda last season helped him.
"I was confident that I have it in me to perform at the higher level, so I just kept on doing what I was doing all along," he said. "Obviously there was a bit of pressure at the start of the match but Munaf Patel helped me relax by telling me to treat it as just another game."
The only time Hooda appeared to be under pressure was early on in his innings when he drew the wrath of senior partner Yusuf Pathan due to a mix-up while running between the wickets. But once his nerves settled, he batted like a seasoned batsman and played a chanceless innings.
Hooda thus became only the second Baroda batsman to score a hundred on first-class debut after Snehal Parikh, the current joint-secretary, who had scored 104 against Gujarat at home in 1981-82. Three other batsmen have made a century in their first match for Baroda. But all three of them - Raosaheb Nimbalkar (119 vs Bombay in 1938-39), Deepak Shodhan (261 vs Maharashtra in 1957-58) and Ambati Rayudu (200* vs Orissa in Cuttack) - had played first-class cricket for other teams earlier.
Despite having come good in his maiden knock at the big stage, a soft-spoken Hooda was disappointed to have "made a mistake" and dismissed off the second new ball. "I should have continued and possibly helped the team get closer to the target," he said.