As it happened | Scorecard
The 172 minutes of exhilarating batting, which was ended by Suranga Lakmal breaching his defence with the second new ball, had put India in a position of dominance with 357/6 on the board at stumps. The carnage inflicted by Pant aside, Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne may be ruing playing three seamers and one specialist spinner. He has laid the foundation for Ravindra Jadeja (batting on 45) and Ashwin (unbeaten on 10) to bat Sri Lanka out of the game on Saturday morning.
He was indeed an anomaly on Friday — a day which was meant to celebrate Virat Kohli’s 100th Test. Every batter including new Test skipper Rohit Sharma (29), Kohli (45) and new No. 3 Hanuma Vihari (58) seemed to have the Sri Lankan attack on the mat but failed to carry on and score big as the pitch offered some variable pace and bounce along with a hint of sharp turn.
Pant’s stocks have grown exponentially in the last one year. That he has grown to become the latest rockstar of Indian cricket was evident when the near seven thousand-strong crowd gave him a deafening welcome even before Kohli could cross the boundary line on his way back to the pavilion after left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya had bowled him.
In Pics: Pant blitz helps India to 357/6 in Kohli’s 100th Test
<p>Rishabh Pant smashed 96 to help India to 357/6 on the opening day of the first Test against Sri Lanka after Virat Kohli fell agonisingly short of fifty in his 100th five-day match on Friday. (AP Photo)</p>
This is the same venue where he was booed three years ago in an ODI against Australia when he was keeping wickets in place of MS Dhoni. Irony is that the same crowd was on its feet as he struggled to drag himself off the field after getting out and that he has seldom looked so distraught even after the rather cringeworthy dismissals he has endured in his short career.
This could have been his second successive Test century following the epic knock in the last innings in Cape Town in January. Instead, he has more scores in the 90s than his four Test hundreds. In a world forever obsessed with milestones, Pant has churned out more match-turning knocks in his 29 Tests than a lot of Test veterans.
ICYMI – @RishabhPant17’s 96-run blitz on Day 1.Fell agonisingly short of a well-deserved century. 96 runs, 97 bal… https://t.co/E2Yix37gNC
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1646399139000
When India lost Shreyas Iyer to Dhanajay for 27 at 228/5 after a 53-run partnership with Pant, India needed stability. Instead, Pant took the high-speed route to take India to safety at the earliest. It seemed a given that Embuldeniya’s left-arm spin was destined to suffer at the hands of Pant. The skip-down-the-tracks and his signature one-handed hits over the boundary were in play.
Listen in to what Virat Kohli has to say on his playing his landmark Test today. @Paytm #INDvSL | @imVkohli https://t.co/MAtUcgJcVo
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1646400728000
It didn’t matter if Sri Lanka had four men patrolling the boundary from long-off to deep square-leg just like former India left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha had set the field on his Ranji Trophy debut when he was only 18. He smacked Ojha for three sixes then and he cleared the fence four times on Friday.
This may not have been the most potent attack that Pant was up against, but his disconsolate walk towards the pavilion suggests his hunger for big runs has just now started to take an ominous shape.