Ben Stokes aimed for the block-hole. England had fielders to guard the ropes. It could have been mistaken for the slog overs of a One-Day International match. But it was, in fact, the third day of a Test match.

Jayant Yadav dug the Stokes delivery from almost beneath his bat and square drove it to the sweeper at deep point. The single earned the 26-year-old his first Test fifty in his second game. The Indian camp, led by captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble, led the appreciation from the team balcony in Mohali.

A first half-century for someone who bats at number nine in just his second Test must feel special. But Yadav did not abuse in celebration nor did he threaten to murder the air with whirlwind fist pumps. He did not let emotions get the better of him. Very calmly he acknowledged the applause from his teammates and the crowd. That moment carried promise. Promise that India had found maturity on the young shoulders of the man from Haryana.

And it was Yadav’s innings prior to that moment of calm that carried assurance. Assurance that India’s call to play him ahead of the experienced Amit Mishra was not completely off target.

Surprising England with his calmness

Yadav had walked out to bat with the hosts just 17 ahead of England’s first innings total. With only three wickets in the bag, England threatened to destroy the momentum India hoped to walk away with.

But the 26-year-old showed that he could be India’s equivalent of football’s false number nine. In football, that player is a striker who does not play in his traditional role around the penalty box, instead he drops deeper into the midfield – where he is unexpected. Similarly, Yadav was a far better batsman at number nine than what England expected him to be. Instead of displaying the panic of a lower-order batsman, he epitomised the solidity of a top-order batsman.

When the right-hander found the fence with a straight drive off England’s most successful bowler, James Anderson, he showed that he is capable of surviving and taking on the best. And when Adil Rashid gifted him long hops, he wasted no time in reminding England that he can dispatch poor bowling with the disdain fellow batsmen of greater standing can.

Yadav’s stay in the middle had also filled the more set Ravindra Jadeja with the confidence to build the innings further. The duo stitched an 80-run stand for the eighth wicket. And by the time the 26-year-old walked back, he had helped India attain a lead of 131. He had propelled India to maintain the momentum they once feared losing.

Where Yadav scores over Mishra

“It’s surprising that Amit Mishra has been dropped. I think he has been made a scapegoat for India’s failure to bowl out England in the 1st Test in Rajkot,” former India captain Sunil Gavaskar had commented on NDTV at the start of the second Test, when Yadav replaced Mishra for the first time.

But perhaps, by the end of Monday’s play in Mohali, it could be felt that Jayant completes Kohli’s puzzle better than Mishra.

The Indian Test captain has always emphasised on his fondness of playing an extra bowler. He captains like he bats – with aggression. He is, thus, aware that wickets increase his chances of victory more than runs do.

“I am always in the favour of playing five bowlers because if we play more batsmen, you can score 700 runs in a Test but that doesn’t help in any way. You need to take 20 wickets to win a Test match. So our top five batsmen plus the wicketkeeper will have to take responsibility and raise a big score so that we can bowl them out twice,” Kohli had reasoned on India’s tour of the West Indies earlier this year.

But to play a Test match with a batsman short can be like a double-edged sword. It could come back to haunt the team if the lower-order refuse to offer resistance. That is where the runs every member of the team’s tail offers become critical. That is also where a Jayant Yadav fits Kohli’s brand of cricket better than an Amit Mishra could.

Mishra was sent in to bat as a nightwatchman in Rajkot. He could not survive more than two balls, let alone the night. Not like Mishra cannot bat at all. He has four Test half-centuries to his credit as well. But if either of Mishra or Yadav had to be banked upon to dig the team out of a hole, the composure of the latter would pip the tensed stay in the middle of the former.

Mishra is the best leg-spinner in the country right now. He adds variety to the Indian attack. He deserves to play in the Indian team even. Maybe he could even have been a part of the team in this Test had Kohli not handed Yadav, Mishra’s Haryana colleague, a surprise debut in Vizag.

But two gritty knocks and four wickets in his first Test earned Yadav another go at cricket’s purest form. It extended Mishra’s exile for the moment. And the wicket of Jonny Bairstow, which followed the critical half-ton and two wickets from the first dash, seems set to hand him a ticket to Mumbai and beyond.

Ironically, it was with Mishra at the other end that Yadav scored his first first-class double ton four years ago. Mishra too surprised many with a double hundred that day. But Mishra has done little with the bat since then, while Jayant’s ability with the bat has repeatedly come to the fore. He would later score his second first-class hundred with Virender Sehwag, who shifted his cricket base to Haryana towards the end of his career, for company.

Another all-rounder for Kohli

The 26-year-old’s first three knocks in Test cricket have further highlighted his prowess with the bat. When he is at the crease, it is devoid of the usual sense of uncertainty associated with a normal number nine. He is not fidgety, he is sure of the calls he makes while he runs, he meets the ball with the full face of his bat, he can drive, he can cut and he can slog.

Mishra can do most of it too, but with lesser style and lesser patience. Often he throws his wicket away just when the team needs him to chip in. Most importantly, Mishra does not appear to enjoy his stint with the willow like his younger teammate.

The only concern India would have had is how Yadav the bowler would fare. The off-spinner would after all have to emerge from the shadows of the more illustrious of his ilk – Ravichandran Ashwin. These are early days, and he is yet to tour overseas, but his start even with the ball has carried promise.

“The biggest positives of this Test are how the fast bowlers bowled and Jayant’s debut. He [Jayant] got one wicket in England first innings, scored some runs and then took another three wickets in second innings,” Kohli had acknowledged after the last Test.

Yadav has with seven wickets, so far, showed that two off-spinners can co-exist. Fortunately for India, both of them can bat like batsmen too. It is also the ideal mix skipper Kohli has longed for. The long home season will allow Yadav to settle down, and sharpen his armoury for when India tours abroad. For that is when the team will need his all-round abilities the most.