Centurion Test: KL Rahul propels India on opening day
Temperament, discipline and consistency are among the key requirements for a batsman to succeed in Test cricket. KL Rahul has more or less ticked all those boxes since his comeback in India’s Test scheme of things.
It all began from the England tour back in August-September when Rahul, along with Rohit Sharma, succeeded on most occasions while opening the innings to deny the opposite attack early inroads.
Proving that the hard work he had put in then was no fluke, Rahul, playing his first Test in over three months, produced a near-perfect knock (122 batting) after stitching a century-plus opening partnership with Karnataka teammate Mayank Agarwal (60) that helped Team India finish Day I of the opening Test versus South Africa at 272/3 at the Supersport Park in Centurion.
At stumps on Sunday, the under-pressure Ajinkya Rahane (40 batting) was the other man at the crease. The Proteas did have an opportunity to claw their way back when captain Virat Kohli (35) played a poor shot that led to his dismissal.
But Rahane ensured not to commit any unforced errors and gave Rahul the support the India vice-captain needed to get to his seventh Test century. Of course, loose deliveries at regular intervals from debutant Marco Jansen and Wiaan Mulder helped Rahane regain some form. But importantly, Rahane remained steady in the 73-run stand that he and Rahul have forged so far for the fourth wicket.
Kohli’s brave call
Overhead conditions at Supersport Park were overcast, while the pitch too seemed to be having some assistance for the quicks. Skipper Kohli’s decision to bat first after winning the toss was indeed a brave one, particularly after the humiliation that was in store for his team in Leeds four months ago when he took a similar call in almost similar conditions.
But Rahul, from the onset, was spot-on in terms of application. Just as he did in England, he knew which balls to leave, getting right behind the line of almost each and every ball.
Rahul did take a bit of time to open his account, but never did he appear unsettled or unsteady. At the other end, Mayank, who got a reprieve on 36, cashed in whenever the South African bowlers erred.
Rahul almost perfect
Midway during the second session, Lungi Ngidi’s double strike, when he accounted for Mayank and the off-colour Cheteshwar Pujara off successive balls, did give the Proteas hopes of a fightback. But Kohli, partnering Rahul, looked solid till he played that poor stroke.
In all fairness to Rahul, there has been just one blip so far in his innings, when he tried to work Mulder to the on side, and it popped up high in the air and went through the hands of an advancing Jansen. Otherwise, Rahul looked in absolute control. Of Rahul’s seven Test centuries, six have come in overseas conditions.
Picking the 21-year-old Jansen over a reasonably experienced Duanne Olivier looked a dubious call. Dean Elgar’s captaincy too was questionable, especially when he didn’t bring Kagiso Rabada back in the attack after Ngidi gave the Proteas a double breakthrough.