Ajinkya Rahane is growing in stature with every outing. On Thursday, playing his first Test at Lord’s, the India batsman took another solid step towards establishing himself as a player of quality.
With his team under tremendous pressure, Rahane took the attack to England in an innings which will win him the approval of pundits here, known to be the toughest critics in the cricketing world.
Due to his effort, India could claim respectability after the visitors were reeling at 145 for seven at the end of the afternoon session.
Lord’s provided the perfect setting for a gripping day’s play. After the dull Trent Bridge Test, the conditions were ideal with the groundsmen rolling out a sporting track. On a green wicket, there was swing in the air, seam movement off the track and decent carry. The batsmen had value for their shots.
After an ordinary effort in the morning, where the pace bowlers struggled to find the right line and length, the hosts came back strongly in the post-lunch session, only to see Rahane lead a stunning counter-attack in the final session.
Great Lord’s debut
In his first outing at the hallowed turf, Rahane has got his name on the famous board in the Long Room. His idol, Rahul Dravid, was the last one before Rahane to get his name on the board with a century in 2011, and it was a knock which would have certainly done Dravid proud. Careful at the start, Rahane unleashed an array of strokes while batting with the lower order to get his team back into the contest. The hundred came off 151 balls with 15 fours and a superb straight six off James Anderson. The last 50 came off as many balls.
After a nightmare of a debut against Australia in Delhi, the Mumbai batsman has gone from strength to strength. He first gave proof of his mettle in South Africa when he scored 96 at Durban against a rampaging Dale Steyn.
It was followed by his first Test hundred in New Zealand. The 103 at Lord’s, while lighting up the series, has added to his growing reputation as a player with solid technique and steely temperament.
Despite getting his eye in, Rahane had failed to cash in at Trent Bridge. Hence, the desire to succeed was stronger. There was determination in his play, which is the key in testing conditions against a quality pace attack. To finish at 290 for nine was a splendid recovery from India. Bhuvneshwar Kumar played a superb part in it, stitching together an invaluable 90-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Rahane.
Equally impressive has been Bhuvi’s consistency. His knock of 36 came after half-centuries in each innings at Trent Bridge.
There are signs that he could be the answer to India’s search for a bowler-batsman.
Unlike the old fashioned all-rounders, he is not a hard-hitting batsman. What works for him is a solid temperament and patience to bat for long hours.
Bhuvi’s batting in the first Test wasn’t noticed much because the runs were made on a docile track. Here, every run was invaluable.
His bowling is similar. Not fast and spectacular. It is about knowing his limitations and sticking to his strengths.
It was a terrific scrap by India after Anderson (4 for 55) and Stuart Broad (2 for 79) had threatened to run through their batting.