We wanted to dominate, not through boundaries, but through singles : Well, they DID dominate in most part of the second innings. Facing a first-innings deficit of 87 runs, with the humiliating defeat in the first Test at the back of the mind, the team not doing really well, openers unable to give a good start, the domination of Team India over Australia at Bengaluru was really commendable.
Losing four top batsmen with just 120 runs on the board, the pair of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, had a huge responsibility on their shoulders. Both these youngsters clearly rose to the occasion and played a very careful innings, backing up each other in the middle.
Pujara and Rahane, who did not have a good series prior to the start of the second innings at Bengaluru, had a lot to prove.
Rahane, in particular, despite his poor show (13 and 18 runs in the first Test and 17 runs in the first innings of the second Test) had the backing of the chief coach, Anil Kumble and the skipper, Virat Kohli.
With scores of 13, 1, 23, 26 and 0 in the first three Test matches against England in the recently concluded home series, Rahane was dropped for the fourth and fifth Test matches on account of injury.
Recovering from injury, he represented India A against England in the ‘limited overs’ practice game, preceding the ODI series and scored 91 runs. He also made significant contributions in the domestic T20 circuit in which scored 78 and 25 runs respectively in two games.
There was a lot of pressure on Rahane to deliver. He had a huge responsibility to prove the selectors’ and team management, right. He had to play a long innings and also make it count.
Prior to the start of the second Test, speaking to TOI, Anil Kumble, ruling out dropping Rahane for the Bengaluru Test, had said, “He (Rahane) has been successful over the last couple of years. There is no question about it (dropping him).”
His poor performance followed him to the first innings at Bengaluru, when in the 48th over, Rahane stepped out to an off-break delivery fro Nathan Lyon, that did not turn much and took the outside edge. Wade, behind the stumps, though could not collect cleanly, had all the time in the world to knock out the bails, before the batsman could retract his steps.
Rahane, facing 42 deliveries, scored only 17 runs.
Three failures in a row could ‘undo’ any batsman mentally. But Rahane exhibited a lot of toughness and courage in the second knock.
Demoted down the order and giving company to Pujara, who was playing well and kept the score board ticking, Rahane managed to add 118 runs for the fifth-wicket, which incidentally, proved to be the best partnership in the match.
The last session of Day 3 proved to be the first session in the match when no wicket had fallen.
Both Pujara (79*) and Rahane (40*) had remained unbeaten at the ‘draw of stumps’.
On Day 4, when the going was ‘looking good’ with India at 238 runs for the loss of 4 wickets, ahead of Australia by 151 runs, in the 85th over of Indian innings, a full and straight delivery from Mitchell Starc to Rahane, pitched on the leg and looked like knocking out the leg stump. Rahane did not offer a stroke and was wrapped on the pad.
Appeal negated by the on-field Umpire, was reviewed and the appeal was upheld by the third umpire.
Rahane departed after playing a wonderful innings, full of character and application. Facing 134 deliveries, hitting 4 fours, he had scored a very valuable 52 runs. This was 8th half-ton in the 61st innings.
This innings of the Mumbai youngster brought India back into the game, which they eventually went on to win. Rahane ‘delivered’ when it really mattered and his innings also has been a reason for India’s victory and levelling the series, thus far.
Speaking about his innings, Rahane said, “”We were not thinking too far ahead. We knew 200 would be tough to get on this pitch. We wanted to unsettle the spinners. We wanted to dominate, not through boundaries, but through singles.”