The sun shone on Sunday and by the stroke of noon, the world saw a young, exuberant, committed warrior conquer the city of Kandy and bask in the glory.
He entered somewhat as a wildcard entry, made his name as a T20 specialist, worked his way up to the highest level and with his place at stake, the 23-year old notched his maiden Test ton to hand India absolute control.
Flamboyant, arrogant, stylish, aggressive, tattooed are some of the words that were used to describe Hardik Pandya. But, not anymore.
Mature is the word from here on as Pallekele witnessed a matured Pandya shouldering the responsibility of bailing India out of a precarious position.
Pandya smashed a belligerent 108 in 86 deliveries, Sri Lanka were shot out for 135 in their first innings- courtesy Kuldeep Yadav's four-wicket haul and having enforced follow-on the hosts at stumps were 19/1 trailing by 333 runs.
India resumed on 329/6 but suffered an early blow when they lost Wriddhiman Saha for 16 in the second over of the day. Vishwa Fernando removed the wicket-keeper as Sri Lanka thought they would wrap up the tail quickly.
However, India's Test cap holders 288 and 289 had different ideas. While Kuldeep Yadav showed he was a handy lower-order batsman with a well-crafted 26, Pandya bided time and kept rotating the strike. The duo more importantly added 62 for the eighth-wicket stand and dampened Sri Lanka's hopes of restricting India under 400.
It was this passage of play that gave an impression that Pandya was indeed ready to grind it out as a Test batsman. The highlights package will show Pandya going downtown and blasting Malinda Pushpakumara for 26 runs in an over, hitting the left-arm spinner for two fours and three sixes in five deliveries.
But it was that period of constant strike rotation and often scorelessness that gave Pandya the right to explode. Pandya reached his fifty when the ninth wicket fell just before Lunch. The session was extended by half an hour, and Pandya simply went berserk.
A T20 in whites as in the tenth-wicket stand of 66, Pandya dominated the show. He was batting on 50 off 61 balls but with in no time smashed 108 off 96. His partner Umesh scored just 3 off 14. While Umesh complimented by not getting out, Pandya exhibited fireworks.
The first ball of the 115th over by Pushpakumara was tonked over cow corner. The second ball saw Pandya dance down the track and drill it past the bowler for a boundary. The next three balls disappeared into the stands with one damaging the sight screen.
There was anger and ruthlessness but dare not say elegance.
Sri Lanka made a mistake of not attacking Pandya early and concentrated on wiping off the rest of the tail. But at the end, they paid the price as when Pandya attacked the ball soared into the stands.
In the first session, the only positive that Sri Lanka could take was the over rate. They bowled 32 overs, conceded 158 runs as India lost 3 wickets.
From India's point of view, their Ben Stokes had arrived in commendable fashion with the murder of Sri Lankan souls. Pandya blasted the fastest century by an Indian batting at No 8.
Each smash was cheered loudly and while the red ball took the pounding, the Indian dressing room was on its feet admiring and welcoming the all-rounder, that there were in desperate need.
Pandya became the fifth Indian to score his maiden first-class hundred in a Test match, after Vijay Manjrekar, Kapil Dev, Ajay Ratra and Harbhajan Singh.
Soon after Pandya's knock, chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad said that India's search for a potent all-rounder is over. "I am very happy to say that our search for an all-rounder has been successful in the form of Hardik," Prasad said.
Prasad further went a step ahead and said Pandya has the potential to match the legendary Kapil Dev.
"If he stays grounded I am sure we will see him being compared to the legendary Kapil Dev in the times to come," Prasad said.
"He has already established himself in shorter formats (ODIs and T20) very well and this Test series has given him a good platform to establish himself in the longest format. He has utilised the opportunity given to him and came out with flying colors. The best part about him is that his basics are strong in all three departments --batting, bowling, and fielding. He looks so graceful in whatever he does in the three departments," Prasad added.
There was a time when Dinesh Chandimal had his best men patrolling the boundary. But such was Pandya's confidence in his technique that it hardly mattered.
Until today, Pandya didn't have a century to his credit. But now he smashed it straight in Test cricket.
That's the way he likes it!