There are times when batting looks ridiculously easy. Where there are two men at the crease that are completely becalmed. There is a Zen like quality to massive partnerships in Test cricket. The fielders and bowlers get flustered and frustrated but the two men with bats in their hands just progress serenely onwards and upwards. For those watching, and perhaps for the fielding side, you start thinking it is just never going to end.
When Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane came together in this Test their team was 100 for three, when the partnership finally came to an end, an end that was a jarring surprise, the score had moved on to 465. They had added 365 runs with both men reaching career best scores.
Partnerships of more than 300 runs in Test cricket are incredibly rare. This is the 2223rd Test match and the stand between Kohli and Rahane was just the 94th time a batting pair have put on more than 300. India have played 502 Tests and this is the fifth highest stand in their history. While it may have looked straightforward, to bat for this long in this heat is a remarkable achievement.
It was not until the 30 minutes before tea that either man began to look tired and there were some lazy shots played, but nearly all of the 112 overs that the two men batted together were uneventful. Neither man got bored or lost concentration. It got to the point that the only threat that either of these players faced was their bodies or their brains letting them down. They had ground the New Zealand bowlers into the Indore dust.
Not that New Zealand bowled badly, they were just outplayed by two men who got themselves set to such an extent it would have taken a tractor and a tow rope to remove them. When the score reached 454 for three Rahane and Kohli passed the best ever fourth wicket stand for India in Test cricket - the 353 between VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar versus Australia in 2004.
The first wicket of the day came just after tea when a cramping Kohli played a tired shot to a ball from Jeetan Patel that trapped him LBW. It was a tame end to a fantastic innings and a brilliant partnership, but it is difficult to find a way to criticise Kohli for the shot. It was the first chance that he had given in his 366 ball innings; in fact he didn’t even play a shot in the air for the entire time he was in the middle. It was an innings that any great batsman would have been proud of.
Kohli now has two double hundreds as India captain, the first one to achieve that, and he will be the first to score three 200 plus scores as skipper at some point in the not too distant future. This was his first truly significant Test innings on Indian soil and with it he has announced himself as a superstar in every format of the game.
There have been times where Kohli hasn’t worked out how to adapt his game to Test cricket, this was the absolutely perfect innings in this version of the game. Patient, circumspect and self-restrained. You feel that Kohli has hit his peak in Test cricket and he will now do what he has done in whites in the same relentless way he has gone about run scoring in light blue.
At the other end there was Ajinkya Rahane playing another outstanding innings. He had his issues against the short ball but he navigated them well enough to reach 188, keeping going and pushing on to set up a declaration after Kohli had departed.
Rahane is one batsmen in this side that goes under the radar the most often. He is just so understated in everything that he does. Even when he was smashing sixes off the New Zealand spinners the languid way that he trotted down the wicket was undramatic. He now averages 51 in Tests and has scored eight centuries in 29 matches. It is difficult to think of many Rahane innings that stand out in your memory and that is entirely to his credit.
When Rahane edged a ball behind with his score on 188, it was another weary shot by a man who had batted for 388 deliveries. Over the last two years Rahane has made 1508 runs at an average of 53. Only Kohli has more. After the captain has written his name down on the team sheet you would think Rahane is the next.
With both centurions gone Ravindra Jadeja and Rohit Sharma went about looking for quick runs with the New Zealand attack downhearted and worn out. Sharma made his third fifty of the series with some of the easiest runs you will ever see in Test cricket, getting there with a six down the ground off a full toss from Matt Henry.
Just about the only thing that didn’t go India’s way during the second day of this Test was when Jadeja was given a five-run penalty for repeatedly running down the pitch while batting.
When the declaration came with the score on 557 for five it meant that New Zealand had nine overs to face before the close of play. They navigated them easily enough to reach 29 for none but they now have to find a way to bat long enough to save this game. With Jadeja already getting the ball to turn out of the rough outside the left-handers off stump this task is one that already looks impossible for the visitors.