Adelaide Test: Here's how Ajinkya Rahane got it right!
India vice-captain finds perfect balance in attack and defence during his strokeful 70; visitors close in on historic victory today
Generally, when a batsman is not among the runs, he'd opt for a nightwatchman with only four overs remaining in the day's play. Not Ajinkya Rahane! The Indian vice-captain had only averaged 31.05 in his last 10 Test matches; he had not scored a hundred for 22 innings and the pressure was mounting. But he decided to confront it head-on.
Rahane knew it was never going to be easy, but he was desperate to prove a point. He had to contend with a rough patch just outside his off stump and a masterful off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who is at the peak of his powers.
Leading into the Test series, he had simulated playing Lyon out of the bowler's footmarks at the Sydney Cricket Ground. On Saturday evening, he backed his defensive methods to survive until stumps. Yesterday, he put into place all the methods he had been practising. There was the sweep, the skip down the wicket to smother the ball and in between the back-foot slap through the on-side.
Even during the England tour, Rahane had looked at ease in the majority of innings, but it was his shot selection that had let him down. It was not until the 19th ball yesterday that he unleashed a booming cover drive off Pat Cummins. In between, he had also overcome the bouncer barrage by getting on top of the ball and playing the hook or pull with authority.
In recent times, Rahane has struggled with the tempo of his innings. He has the tendency to get bogged down and not being able to rotate the strike. But yesterday, he found the right balance of attack and defence. The feet were moving swiftly as exemplified by some crisp drives down the ground. There was also so much assurance against Lyon.
At one stage, Rahane was five off 33 balls, but the booming drive off Cummins gave him the confidence as he reached his half-century in 111 balls. In the end, it was the lack of support from the tail that led him to attempting a reverse sweep and perishing for 70.
On another day, a bit more resilience from the tail and he could well have notched up a ton. It could be the innings that gives him the confidence to post a substantial score later in the series.
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