He came in at 162 for 5 and ensured a first-innings lead despite Delhi having piled on 452
Sai Kishore (11) had been caught short by a direct hit from Lalit Yadav while Gandhi (55) nicked off a quick dart from Mishra. Shahrukh then immediately changed the mood and tempo of the game with a barrage of boundaries.
He had started off in a skittish fashion, flapping a weak pull in front of mid-on, but stayed true to his usual attacking instincts and went about bending the Delhi attack out of shape. Shahrukh was particularly brutal on left-arm seamer Kuldip Yadav, taking him for 50 off a mere 20 balls. All up, he walloped 20 fours and 10 sixes.
He was either forward to smother Mishra’s turning balls or right back – when the bowler dragged the length back – to cut him or pull him away. In all, he made 29 off 48 balls against Mishra. Over the last two years, Tamil Nadu’s assistant coach R Prasanna has had a variety of local spinners bowling at Shahrukh at the nets and all that training was put to good use against Delhi.
“I want to get big runs in Ranji Trophy. I might also bat down the order in red-ball cricket and I want to handle those situations better, with Prasanna as the example. He has bailed out Tamil Nadu from so many situations in swinging conditions. The margin for error in red-ball cricket is a lot lesser and I enjoy that challenge.”
Shahrukh walked the talk, striking up rapid century stands with Indrajith and then N Jagadeesan. Shahrukh had brought up the century stand with Indrajith in grand style with a rasping cut over backward point off Kuldip – a genuine candidate for the shot of the day. Indrajith was more aggressive and proactive against spin, often disrupting lengths and lines by jumping out of the crease.
Indrajith reached his hundred off 126 balls when he glided Kuldip to the third-man boundary in the 71st over, which yielded 22 runs. Seven overs later, though, Rana pinned him lbw with an offbreak that shot low. There would be no stopping Shahrukh however, as he zipped into the nineties with a brace of sixes.
After getting to a century of his own, with a single to long leg, he seemingly pointed to his white jersey and soaked in the applause from the Tamil Nadu camp. Shahrukh then needed just 24 balls to go from 100 to 150.
After a slow start, Jagadeesan, too, hit a higher gear, launching Mishra for sixes over long-off and long-on in the 92nd over. At one point, Delhi spread out the field, deploying fielders at deep midwicket, deep backward square leg and long-on, but Shahrukh kept peppering that arc or clearing those outfielders.
Rana and Mishra made some late strikes for Delhi, but this was Shahrukh’s weekend once again.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo