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Sarfaraz Khan’s dream debut ends in cruel twist but leaves us wanting more

Sarfaraz Khan produced one of the most entertaining fifties on debut by an Indian batter in recent memory.

For most of his adult life – and he is still only 26 – Sarfaraz Khan has been a bit of a problem child. Around scoring a bucketful of runs across formats at the age-group and senior levels, he has had his issues with fitness, with discipline.

Sarfaraz Khan goes big(BCCI-X)

So, why should he be any different on his Test debut?

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The stocky right-hander had endured a long wait to break down the doors to international selection, but when his time came, he grabbed it with both hands, exacerbating England’s headache at the newly christened Niranjan Shah Stadium in Rajkot on Thursday.

Having lorded the early exchanges on day one of the third Test, England had run into a roadblock in the form of centurions Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, who steadied a rocking ship at 33 for three with a stand of 204. But when Rohit was suckered into the pull trap placed by his opposite number Ben Stokes, England sensed a massive opening. After all, they had only to contend with debutants Sarfaraz and Dhruv Jurel, R Ashwin and the tail. The end, they might have believed, wasn’t that far away.

Also Read: Sarfaraz Khan’s wife’s emotional reaction from stands after he scores first runs is priceless

In a little over an hour and a bit, Sarfaraz showed up the follies of that line of thought. Batting as if in his 100th Test and displaying no signs of nerves or stage fright, he tore into the England bowling, showing scant regard for either reputation or the occasion. Totally unprepared for this frontal assault, England were rocked on their heels, scratching their heads in part wonderment and part helplessness until Jadeja threw them a lifeline by selling his partner a dummy and leaving him for dead.

Having breezed to 62 off 66 deliveries in a spectacular show of nerveless aggression, Sarfaraz forlornly dragged himself off the park when Mark Wood’s direct hit from a shortish mid-on caught him well short of his ground. In the dressing-room, a furious Rohit whipped off his cap and flung it on the ground in disgust. In the middle, Jadeja hung his head in acknowledgement of his guilt, aware that his desperation to get to three-figures had nipped a burgeoning masterpiece in the bud. Everyone’s heart went out to Sarfaraz. As debuts go, there have been few more sweet-bitter ones.

Also Read: Rohit Sharma slams India cap in anger as Ravindra Jadeja runs out Sarfaraz Khan, goes missing while all-rounder’s 100

Until that fateful brain-fade from Jadeja, Sarfaraz had dazzled the sizeable gathering with his fabulous array of strokes and a temperament that doesn’t nestle in most. The assortment of cricketing riches in the commentary box waxed eloquent as he dismantled England without a care in the world. Notably, he used his feet exceptionally to England’s inexperienced spinners, waltzing deep in the crease to access the sparsely populated off-side, dancing down the track to hit uninhibitedly in the air down the straight field, or going down on one knee and sweeping with supreme power to make a mockery of Stokes’ funky fields.

Test cricket, Sarfaraz is coming for more

In the last three seasons alone, Sarfaraz has ten first-class centuries. He is a master at taking down attacks in domestic cricket, and for all the success Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Joe Root have enjoyed on this tour, they aren’t the most accomplished spinners in the game. Where, in the two preceding Tests, India treated them with far greater respect than they deserved, Sarfaraz put them in their place without resorting to the brazen or the adventurous, clattering along at an electric pace with Jadeja a silent, impressed partner during their fifth-wicket association.

Very quickly, paceman Mark Wood, who had added Rohit to his early scalps of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill, realised that the short ball held no fears for the short man. Stokes then turned to his spinners for deliverance, but it was Sarfaraz who delivered. As much as his stroke-making, it was his calmness that stood out. When one has waited so long to reach the Promised Land, anxiety and desperation can be so easily overwhelming, but Sarfaraz was in complete control of his emotions. There was no hesitancy in his decision-making. Both in defence and more frequent attack, he was totally committed. The boundaries came rapidly, the score board clattered along and England were forced on the defensive, trying to staunch the bleeding. Problem child, didn’t we tell you?

In the end, completely against the run of play and in the most cruel way imaginable, Sarfaraz’s enterprising, exhilarating stint was cut short. Like the man who had handed him his Test cap, Anil Kumble, Sarfaraz too was run out in his first Test innings, though he made 60 runs more than the great leggie. Now, if the young man can have half as successful an international career as the former captain…


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