The Telegraph
Friday , July 18 , 2014
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Rahane scripts memorable ‘debut’ at one & only Lord’s
- India fight back on a seaming greentop

Rahul Dravid rings the five-minute bell prior to the start of play on the first day of the second Test at Lord's, on Thursday. (AFP)

London: Ajinkya Rahane had been nervous on the eve of his first Test at Lord’s. After all, the home of cricket’s iconic status usually multiplies the pressure.

But there’s the other side as well.

Reward comes in the form of more glowing accolades and an entry on the Honours’ Board at the revered ground. Cricketers big and small aspire to make it, the qualification being a hundred or five wickets.

Certainly, nobody wishes to fail at Lord’s.

If Wednesday was tough on Rahane, it was an excellent day in the office on Thursday. Now, he won’t have to bother about anything — least of all sleeping well.

A chanceless hundred on a seaming greentop. That, too, at Lord’s. How much better can it get for the 26-year-old Mumbaikar?

“Every hundred is very special, but Lord’s is something different... It’s a great feeling,” the rather shy Rahane said shortly after stumps.

Day I of the second Test was headed England’s way when India were reduced to 145 for seven in the afternoon.

However, Rahane (103) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (36) added 90 for the eighth wicket and wrested the initiative.

England’s bowlers were left kicking the ball, instead of getting back to the length which crippled India in the session between lunch and tea.

Once the plucky Bhuvneshwar departed, Rahane found a competent partner in Mohammed Shami, who’d got a fifty at Trent Bridge.

Rahane was then 22 short of his second Test hundred (the first was in Wellington, this year itself), but getting there wasn’t an issue.

The second new ball also wasn’t able to force a quick end to India’s rearguard challenge.

Rahane eventually fell to a soft dismissal, taken by the bowler, James Anderson, himself.

Shami and Ishant Sharma held firm till stumps.

Given the look of the wicket and the fact that it had moisture, England should have ripped through India’s top-order in the opening session (73 for two) itself.

’Keeper Matt Prior dropped Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli, though neither actually benefited by much.

England bowled short and wide when captain Alastair Cook wanted his bowlers to make India’s batsmen play every ball.

The hosts’ strategy changed in session No.2 and that met with success. Till Rahane and Bhuvneshwar rewrote the script.

“Rahane’s produced a very good innings... One of the very best that I’ve seen in years,” former India captain Rahul Dravid told The Telegraph.

Dravid, incidentally, has been Rahane’s mentor at the Rajasthan Royals.

Till Rahane got his hundred, the talking point was the greentop.

“Only twice before have I seen such a seaming wicket... At Tunbridge Wells in the 1983 World Cup and in Sialkot, during the Test there in 1989,” Kapil Dev, another former India captain, pointed out in an exclusive chat.

One may add Durban (1996) and Johannesburg (2006). India got thrashed at Kingsmead, while Sreesanth helped inspire a memorable victory in Sourav Ganguly’s comeback Test, at the Wanderers.

It could have been England’s day, but India have kept themselves in the race to gain a headstart in the five-Test series.