With the series already in hands, the Holkar Stadium in Indore was all set to witness it”s first ever test. India had already clinched the series but there was no drop in intensity. Everyone knew that Indians will come out ruthless and play aggressive brand of cricket that is usually associated with Virat Kohli”s style of play. And as he has made a habit of winning tosses at home, Williamson called it wrong and Virat opted to bat.
India lost Vijay and Gambhir early and when Pujara was bowled by Mitchell Santner, playing down the wrong line, Ajinkya Rahane joined skipper Virat Kohli at 100/3. The captain and vice captain duo had underperformed by their standards so far in the series. Rahane had a fifty in Kolkata and skipper Virat Kohli averaged just 20 in first 2 tests. The stage was set for them to play a marathon innings and bail India out of trouble. Rahane came out to bat with just 2 runs required to bring up 2000 test runs. He brought that up with a leg glance off Trent Boult. A while later he received a snotter from Matt Henry that hit his arm guard and lobbed up in the air straight to Ross Taylor at Gully. Big appeal was turned down. He was looking very uncomfortable against short pitched bowling early on in the innings.
Rahane had his share of luck. A miscued pull just landed in front of Deep square leg and went for four. He was living dangerously at the crease. After Henry it was Neesham”s turn to trouble Rahane and he did just that with another jaffer. He was clearly struggling but showed immense character to grind it out there and battle that tough little period. Soon when spinners came into the attack he came to his own. He was very precise with his footwork against the spinners, not being afraid to come down the pitch. His fifty was brought up with a 6, again brilliant use of feet over mid wicket. He capitalised on anything short and cashed in whenever Kiwis threw pies at him. At the end of day 1 Rahane was not out on 79.
Day 2 saw a totally different approach from Rahane. He went after the bowlers right from the word go. He was ready to take the attack to the opposition. A short ball by Matt Henry hit him on his helmet but he was totally unfussed. His hundred came after a pull back of the square. It was his 3rd hundred in India. But when it came to facing spinners, he started from where he left, dancing down the pitch, chipping the bowl over mid off against the turn off Jeetan Patel, going inside out.
A chip over cover for 4 brought up his 150. After Virat Kohli was out, it was looking like Indians were waiting for Rahane to get to 200. Batting on 188, he threw his bat at a ball that was little bit outside off and it was a good diving catch from Watling. An gutsy hard working innings of 188 came to end, just 12 runs short! So close yet so far! Having all the shots in the book, he scored all over the park with 49% of his runs on leg side and 51% on off side. Out of his 4 sixes, 2 came over long on and 2 straight back over bowler”s head. He scored a flurry of boundaries in the cover region. And when it came to taking singles, behind the square on leg side and mid wicket were his preferred areas.
In a stadium that has stands named after legends of Indian cricket, the likes of Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Tendulkar and stalwarts of Holkar”s team the crowd witnessed masterclass from the two legends in the making. On a pitch that was not a batting beauty, Virat and Rahane made batting look ridiculously easy. This reminded us of the good old days when Dravid and Tendulkar used to grind out the opposition bowlers tirelessly!!
Virat Kohli someone who likes to dictate terms much like what Tendulkar used to do in 90s. Rahane, like his mentor calm and composed and overshadowed by Virat Kohli much like Dravid was overshadowed by Sachin. His wife Radhika was there in the stands to support him throughout his innings. When you have one love in hand and other in stands, nothing can stop you!
– by Atharva Apte