The hard work had been done overnight by Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, but India’s two most prolific batsmen dashed New Zealand’s hopes of any fightback on the second day of the final Test on Sunday.
The India skipper had ended a three-year wait for a century on home soil, but their focus was unwavering as they consolidated. In the end, their record 365-run fourth wicket partnership enabled India to declare in the final session to push for a clean sweep in the series.
Kohli was a picture of patience throughout, brilliantly adapting after paying the price for trying to enforce his writ in the first two Tests, on slow pitches. The result was a brilliant 211, his second double century in successive series. The effort apparent as the super-fit batsman was limping due to cramp in his left leg towards the end of his nine-hour innings.
The sheer discipline was evident as Kohli didn’t attempt a six despite India having taken control. It was about making a statement, finding new heights as a batsman.
Rahane is easily the most consistent India batsman, and he struck his eighth century. He has scored at least a ton in India’s last seven full series over the last three seasons.
He was tested with short deliveries, and although he didn’t hesitate to attack when he got the opportunities, Rahane didn’t succumb to the temptation of playing any rash shot against the short ones. By the time his 381-ball 188 ended to a catch behind stumps, the visitors had almost given up.
Kohli’s knock reminded one of Sachin Tendulkar’s in Sydney in the 2003-4 series where he didn’t play the cover drive in his 241 not out. Kohli controlled his natural instinct and played along the ground throughout.
Rahane, 28, was more aggressive, dancing down the wicket to swat away any loose delivery, smashing 18 boundaries and four sixes.
Both batsmen played perfect Test innings. They waited for the loose deliveries, and when needed, shut shop. There was little the bowlers could do to stop them.
Trent Boult and Matt Henry tested Rahane with short stuff. In the fifth over, a Henry bouncer struck Rahane on the helmet grille close to his ear. He spent the better part of the first session avoiding short balls.
But Kohli and Rahane accelerated after lunch, showing an assuredness that comes after batting for the better part of a day-and-a-half. Kohli reached his double ton close to tea but fell leg before to Patel soon after resumption.
Rahane raised a handy partnership with Rohit Sharma (51 not out) but fell 12 short of a double, edging Boult to the keeper BJ Watling.
A few lusty blows by Rohit and Ravindra Jadeja took India past the 550-run mark. New Zealand saw off a testing nine overs without any setback, but Monday will be different.