SK Elite: When Shikhar Dhawan smashed the fastest century on Test debut
Having just turned 32, Shikhar Dhawan is at the peak of his powers and continues to enjoy a sparkling run of form at the moment. Amidst intense competition for the opening slots in India's Test juggernaut, the left-hander's penchant for taking the attack to the opposition lineups holds him in good stead even as challenging overseas tours loom in the horizon.
It has been more than four years since Dhawan burst onto the international stage. Donning the whites for the first time against Australia at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali, he instantly grabbed the limelight by smashing Dwayne Smith's previous record for the fastest Test century by a batsman on debut.
Let us relive Dhawan's incredible initiation into Test cricket in 2013. On a flat surface, his 174-bal 187 helped India stave off a damp beginning to enforce a memorable victory and also kept them on target for the eventually ensuing 4-0 clean-sweep of Australia.
Shikhar skins Australian attack
After taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the 4-match series, India entered Mohali with the aim of maintaining their dominance in the third Test too. However, no play was possible on the opening day as unrelenting rain took center-stage. Following the tireless efforts of the ground-staff, Australia won the toss and had no hesitation in making first use of the docile surface on offer.
Riding on sizeable contributions from Ed Cowan, Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc, the visitors crossed the 400-run mark. Confronted with considerable scoreboard pressure, all eyes were on the India's opening duo of Dhawan and Murali Vijay. What followed was scarcely believable as the fresh combination amassed one of the best partnerships in Indian Test history.
Dhawan survived a nervous moment when the ball slipped from Mitchell Starc's hands to knock the non-striker's stumps. But the Aussies did not bother to appeal. The opener got into the groove by hammering Peter Siddle for contrasting boundaries.
When the Australian pacers tried to attack him with the short ball, Dhawan got into position quickly and unfurled the pull short with minimal fuss. The left-hander, in particular, was severe against the medium pace of Moises Henriques. He was equally adept against the spin pairing of Nathan Lyon and Xavier Doherty.
Dispatching loose deliveries with disdain, Dhawan pierced the off-side boundary in brilliant fashion. The manner in which he manipulated the field with his silken stroke-play even evoked comparisons with the elegant Sourav Ganguly. Without taking the aerial route, he unleashed a barrage of boundaries to leave the spectators in resplendent awe.
The southpaw upset the spinners' rhythm by implementing well-laid plans. If he repeatedly charged down the track to disrupt Lyon's lengths, the then 27-year old utilised both conventional and reverse sweep to target vacant areas in the field.
Dhawan enters the record books
While Dhawan was laying into the Australian attack, Vijay was offering him solid support at the other end. Sensing his batting partner's incredible form, the classy right-hander smartly kept feeding him the strike. The left-hander was facilitated by a moment of serendipity as a healthy outside edge flew between slip and gully.
One run adrift of the impending landmark, Dhawan set off for a risky single and somehow managed to scramble past the crease. Even as the overthrow went screaming to the boundary, he held his arms afloat and soaked in the generous applause from the sparse crowd.
Extra Cover: Top 5 Shikhar Dhawan moments
Having taken just 85 balls to reach the three-figure mark, he usurped the all-time record of the fastest Test century by a debutant. Upon entering his name in the history books, Dhawan continued to decimate the Australian bowlers. He offered no let-up in his momentum and sustained his flurry of boundaries.
The visitors finally saw the back of Dhawan when he lobbed a simple catch to Cowan off the bowling of Lyon. Even though he fell short of the 200-mark by a mere 13 runs, the opener had set the stage for India to rack up an imposing total in double quick time.
Vijay carried on from where his opening partner left. The Tamil Nadu batsman brought up a well-compiled century of his own and stitched valuable partnerships with the middle-order. After gaining a 91-run lead, India's bowlers blew the Aussies away for 223 in their second-innings. Racing against time, the hosts completed the tricky run-chase to register a six-wicket triumph.
Needless to say, Dhawan was named the Player of the Match. Showing no signs of nervousness usually accompanying a debutant at the highest level, he had absolutely pulverised Australia with his extensive array of shots traversing across the entire spectrum.