Mumbai: Shreyas Iyer stroked his way to an unbeaten half-century in an otherwise unimpressive batting display by India 'A' in reply to Australia's first-innings total of 469 for 7 declared on the second day of the three-day practice game in Mumbai on Saturday.
Iyer, who has been knocking on the doors of the national team over the past couple of seasons with his attacking batting in domestic cricket, could not have chosen a better platform to showcase his talent, smashing five 6s and seven 4s in an almost run-a-ball innings to remain unconquered on 85 in a team score of 176 for 4 in 51 overs.
The batsman unbeaten at the other end with Iyer, who has faced 93 balls in 147 minutes' stay, was another youngster — Rishabh Pant of Delhi — who was on 3.
India 'A' were 293 runs in arrears at stumps.
Starting his innings in stunning fashion with a six over long-on off the first ball he faced from Nathan Lyon, Iyer dominated the rival bowling, barring Jackson Bird, who was the pick of the Australian bowlers with his pace and movement at the Brabourne Stadium.
Iyer gave just once chance, off Lyon, soon after reaching his half century in 44 balls, but otherwise dominated the Australian spin duo of Lyon, whom he hit for three sixes, and left-arm spinner Stephen O'Keefe, who was hoisted twice over the ropes by the youngster.
All the sixes were hit over long-on as Iyer, who is 15 runs short of his ninth first-class hundred in 38 games, danced down the track.
The 22-year-old batsman's innings was the pick of the India 'A' reply in which opener Priyank Panchal made 36 with six fours in 77 minutes, but was beaten often by Bird.
The other opener Akhil Herwadkar struggled his way to 4 in 48 minutes, while Ankit Bawne made an attractive but all-too-brief 25 in 39 minutes with four hits to the fence. Skipper Hardik Pandya too got a start before departing late in the day for 19, caught behind off Bird.
Iyer and Pandya, dropped on 3 at first slip by Matt Renshaw off Bird, had consolidated the innings after the fall of Bawne with a partnership of 52.
Iyer and Bawne had earlier steadied the innings after the loss of the two openers with a stand of 57 for the third wicket.
For Australia, Lyon — although punished by Iyer — showed good form as he got purchase off the track to pick up 2 for 72 while Bird, easily the most impressive of the visiting team's bowlers, did not allow the batsmen any freedom and also got rid of Pandya to end with excellent figures of 2 for 15 in 11 overs.
In the morning, Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade utilised the one-off opportunity to hit individual half centuries, ahead of the Test series opener.
In reply, India A made 63 for two wickets with openers Akhil Herwadkar (4) and Priyank Panchal (36) dismissed at the stroke of tea — both falling to off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who is expected to be the main spin bowler in the four-Test series commencing at Pune on 23 February.
The unbeaten batsman at the end of the second session was Iyer.
Earlier, Marsh made 75 after a stay of 200 minutes during which he hit one six and 11 fours while the left-handed Wade scored 64 with nine fours in his 161-minute stay before getting out just before lunch against part-time bowler Herwadkar.
The visitors declared soon after Marsh drove left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem straight into the hands of the mid-off fielder to become the only victim of the innings in the bowler's 31st over.
On Friday, skipper Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh hit individual hundreds in impressive fashion to be followed. On day two, Mitchell Marsh and wicketkeeper Wade hardly looked in any trouble and the visitors would be pleased with the time spent in the middle by all the batsmen.
Australia declared when Glenn Maxwell and O'Keefe were at the crease with 16 and 8 respectively and in reply, the home team's openers Herwadkar and Panchal faced a testing time against Australia new ball bowlers Bird and Marsh.
Panchal, especially, was troubled by the movement extracted by Bird but managed to stay on while seeing the back of his partner Herwadkar, who offered a low return catch to Lyon.
Coming in after the fall of the first wicket, Iyer started his innings with a first-ball six over long on off Lyon while Panchal grew in confidence after his early trouble against Bird.
The Gujarat batsman looked like carrying on till tea before he turned Lyon straight into the hands of the short leg fielder after having faced 62 balls in a 77-minute stay. He hit six fours.