Shardul Thakur’s first-class batting average was just 16 when he strolled to the crease and hooked Pat Cummins for six to get off the mark.
Cummins smirked but the smile quickly disappeared as the second-gamer launched an unlikely rearguard, defending stoutly and depositing Nathan Lyon over deep long-on’s head to bring up a maiden half-century at the Gabba on Sunday.
India’s No.8, whose 67 in a 123-run stand with No.7 Washington Sundar (62) added another incredible twist to a series still in the balance with just two days remaining.
Their partnership moved India from 6-186 to 336 all out, just 33 runs behind the hosts who need to win the Test to win the series.
On the back of three first-inning wickets the 29-year-old played in such a manner he won the affection of the Brisbane crowd.
“I remember (retired Indian great-turned coach) Ravi Shastri telling me ‘if you perform in this country you will be rewarded and people are going to love you for your performances’,” Thakur said.
“That one thing was on my mind … (I knew) if I hit a few good shots the same crowd will also cheer for me.
“I was just hoping for the turnaround and it happened.”
Thakur and Sundar both produced some thunderous drives, to go with well-controlled pulls and cuts, attacking when presented width by a bowling attack they believed was tiring.
“Both of us have that temperament to succeed at this level,” Thakur said.
“If we hung in there for one more hour we would be on the top … we were just waiting for our chance, honestly.”
His innings is the latest act of defiance from an Indian outfit missing as many as 11 through injury and availability.
But, with Australia ahead by 54 and rain expected on both days, they are in a strong position to at least draw the Test and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
“It’s a long haul and as a player it’s always challenging to stay motivated,” Thakur said.
“But the series being tied … this game turns out to be the most important so you don’t need any extra motivation.
“Just look at the scorelines and pray you’re making a useful contribution to make your team win.”