Rishabh Pant is the only batsman in the current Indian XI who has scored a century in the fourth innings in Tests. On Monday, he seemed on course to score one more and take India into history books until he perished for 97 (118).
Coming in to bat at number five, with a bruised elbow, with a target of 407 looming large, Pant batted with guts and glory against the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood, and Nathan Lyon.
His 97(118) featured 12 hits to the fence and three of them over the ropes, making it one of his most memorable knocks where he truly lived by the sword & died by it.
Footwork vs spin
The attack is the best form of defense and Pant followed this rule on the pitch as he backed himself against the Australian bowlers after being rewarded a couple of lives. The southpaw was particularly aggressive against right-arm off-spinner Nathan Lyon who kept turning the ball away from him.
Time and again he danced down the track whenever the ball was pitched up and in his zone and hit them over the long-on and mid-wicket area, despite a fielder being stationed there. The cut-shot came into the picture whenever the bowler tried to adjust his length by going slightly short. This explains why most of his runs were over long-on and square off despite scoring runs all over the park. However, it was not all attack as he defended 55 percent of his deliveries and attacked 45 percent of them.
According to Cricviz stats, Pant averages 52 when attacking spinners in Test cricket. In part, that is related to attacking poorer deliveries, but it could also be related to his attacking technique being stronger than his defensive technique.
How it kept India in the game
After being unable to complete his wicketkeeping duties, Pant recovered well to put on an aggressive display of his power hitting. When he walked out to bat, the Indian scorecard was 102/3.
With India teetering, Pant was at the crease in the second over of Monday and settled in quickly. While he scored just 5 in his first 18 balls, he quickly shifted gears and went on the attack and belting three sixes and eight boundaries to dominate an unbroken partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara that fetched 148 runs.
The Australian also came up with their bag of tricks with a video revealing Steve Smith removing Pant’s guard marks on the crease after drinks break. However, unperturbed Pant kept his free-flowing strokeplay going taking India closer to 407.
The cat and mouse between Pant and Lyon came to end when the Australian finally had the last laugh after varying his pace in the lead up to the wicket-taking ball, bowling a 97kph ball, followed by an 81kph ball, then the 87kph wicket ball.
With the new ball available after an over, Pant was also trying to attack the bowler but miscued the shot which landed safely into the hands of Hazelwood at gully.
While Pant missed out on what would have been one of the most memorable centuries in recent times, he certainly won many hearts with his fearless approach and duly received a standing ovation at SCG.
Records created by Rishabh Pant at SCG:
-Fastest visiting wicketkeeper to reach 500 runs in Australia in Tests.
-First Asian wicketkeeper to score 500 runs in Australia in Tests.
-Youngest wicketkeeper to score 90+ runs in the 4th innings of a Test match in Australia.