KL Rahul’s superb batsmanship on the third day has opened up the fifth and final Test for India.
Till the end of the second day, a draw was increasingly looked upon as the sole outcome on a pitch that offered little to the bowlers by way of encouragement. But what changed the prognosis dramatically at the end of Sunday was an aggressive, positive display of batting, the sort that is rarely witnessed in Test cricket.
Powered by Rahul, India added a massive 331 runs on the day to their overnight 60 for no loss, and in the process, are just 86 runs short of England’s total of 477.
With two full days to go and the pitch expected to break up by the end of the fourth day, the onus will be very much on India to step on the gas, build a sizeable lead and put the English batsmen under the pump.
The day was all about Rahul. With two massive partnerships, 152 for the first wicket with Parthiv Patel and 161 for the fourth with Karun Nair, he turned the tables on the hapless England bowlers.
Of course the visitors dismissed Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, their tormentors in earlier Tests, cheaply. But Rahul batted like a champion to make light of these losses.
Last evening Rahul had strained his thigh muscle while batting and was hobbling around. But obviously, with a lot of medical attention and rest over the evening, he was fresh for the battle on Sunday.
Rahul struck a good understanding with his opening partner Patel. The left-hander looked for opportunities to put the bowling to the sword even as the pair ran well and plundered runs at a hectic pace.
The partnership really set the tone for the day, although the slowness of the pitch might have contributed to a couple of dismissals including that of Kohli.
England might have entertained hopes with the early dismissals of Pujara and Kohli but that’s when the Karnataka batsman stood up to be counted.
Discerning cricket aficionados rate Rahul as India’s best batsman after Kohli, across all formats. He was always reckoned to be a good long duration batsman but of late has turned out to be an excellent limited overs batsman too.
In fact, the repertoire of strokes that makes him such a gifted limited overs cricketer was unleashed every now and then in this Test. This was very evident when he used his feet to loft the bowlers for a couple of sixes to race to his half century and also effect reverse sweeps at critical stages of his batting. The reverse sweep he employed to reach his century spoke richly of the courage of conviction in his ability to pull off that shot at the threshold of such an important milestone.
Interestingly, Rahul was at hand to mentor and encourage his talented statemate Karun Nair to find his feet in Test cricket. Nair loves to bat at number five. Although he has opened the batting and also gone at number three and four in the batting order, his comfort level in the batting order is at the fall of the third wicket and he got it today.
Additionally, he also enjoyed the company of Rahul at the other end. The duo understands each other perfectly, having played loads of cricket at club, junior and state levels.
Nair had not performed too well in his first two Tests but his talent was never in doubt. Obviously he must have been tense, but with Rahul for company, that must have eased a bit. Today he set about showing why he has been rated so highly by excelling through their 161-run fourth wicket stand.
The slowness of the pitch hardly mattered to these two when it came to playing strokes. The second new ball, which came on to the bat a lot quicker, was ideal for accelerating the run rate.
Pity though was Rahul falling just one run short of what would have been an outstanding double hundred. His knock (199, 311 balls, 3x6, 16x4) was cut short when he got out to a rather innocuous delivery from Adil Rashid and spooned a catch to Jos Butler at cover point.
Karun Nair (71 batting, 136b, 6x4) and Murali Vijay (17 batting) are around to take the battle to the Englishmen on the morrow. If they, along with Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and others can notch up a lead of 150 by tea it should make for a very interesting fifth day’s play.
Updated Date: Dec 18, 2016 20:36:30 IST