Kerala's Mohammed Azharuddeen smashed the second-fastest century in the Syed Mushtaq Ali, India's domestic T20 tournament, as he reached the landmark in 37 balls against a Mumbai attack led by Dhawal Kulkarni at the Wankhede Stadium. Azharuddeen missed Rishabh Pant's record by five balls but it was still the joint-third-fastest T20 century by an Indian. It was also the first hundred by a Kerala batsman in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and sealed their highest-ever chase in the tournament as they beat Mumbai for the first time in any format.
Kerala were chasing 197 after 40s from Yashasvi Jaiswal and Aditya Tare and handy cameos from Suryakumar Yadav and Shivam Dube. Azharuddeen started the innings with Robin Uthappa, who was sedate only in comparison, and the two put on 129 runs in 9.3 overs before Uthappa a 23-ball 33. Soon after, Azharuddeen got to his century off left-arm spinner Atharva Ankolekar. Pant's record of 32 balls, which came for Delhi against Himachal Pradesh in 2017-18, though was never really under threat.
After being on 89 in 31 balls, Azharuddeen slowed down, scoring 1, 1, 0 and 1 to get to 92 in 35 balls before a six off Mulani and a two took him to the landmark. He remained unbeaten on 137 off 54 balls, with nine fours and 11 sixes, as Kerala cantered to victory by eight wickets in 15.5 overs.
Azharuddeen, the 26-year-old, got off the mark off the third ball of the innings - his first - with a boundary off Kulkarni, and took a special liking to Tushar Deshpande, the other new-ball bowler. In the second over of the innings, bowled by Deshpande, Azharuddeen hit one six and two fours as 20 runs were scored. Deshpande went off the attack but returned in the sixth, and Azharuddeen hit him for two fours and two sixes as the over went for 23, taking his score to 65 at the end of the powerplay.
The most noteworthy aspect of Azharuddeen's innings was his pull shots, but he did play more than a few pleasing drives too, and found his runs off Ankolekar and Shams Mulani primarily in the V, even as he slapped the experienced Kulkarni over his head for two sixes, both off the back foot.
The record for the quickest T20 century is in the name of Chris Gayle - he got to the mark off just 30 balls when he hit 175 not out off 66 balls for the Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Pune Warriors India in IPL 2013. Then comes Pant's effort. Rohit Sharma's 35-ball ton against Sri Lanka in a T20I ranks second among Indians, while Azharuddeen has pulled level with Yusuf Pathan, who hit a 37-ball century for the Rajasthan Royals against the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2010.
Azharuddeen has never featured in the IPL before, but this century is a timely step in that direction, given the IPL 2021 auction is scheduled for February.