Kohli, Rahane sizzle at MCG

Cricket Third Test: Duo slams centuries in massive 262-run partnership for the fourth wicket

Kohli, Rahane sizzle at MCG

Few would have taken R Ashwin seriously when the off-spinner, in all earnestness, remarked that India would make 650 and put pressure on Australia, who had left the visitors at 108 for one after posting a massive 530 all out at the end of second day’s play.

When Cheteshwar Pujara, dismissed off the second ball of the day, and M Vijay (68) departed with India reeling at 147 for three, Ashwin’s prediction had become the butt of all jokes. What then followed, however, left about 40,000-strong crowd absolutely dazed and delighted in equal measure, depending upon which side ones loyalties were.   

Virat Kohli (169, 380m, 272b, 18x4) and Ajinkya Rahane (147, 240m, 171b, 21x4) blazed away to a 262-run partnership for the fourth wicket during which they made the Australian attack look pedestrian, helpless and even clueless. Steven Smith had remarked that Indian bowlers had no answer to Australia’s batting. One would wonder what the skipper had to say about his bowlers! It’s not just the bowling even their fielding went to pieces as three easy catches were grassed on the day.

India now trail by 68 runs with only the tail to follow but had Kohli negotiated the final over of the day, they could have hoped to wipe out the deficit. The right-hander fell to a brilliant diving catch by stumper Brad Haddin, who had begun the day holding on to a similar offer from Pujara. The day ended the way it began, in Australia’s favour, but in between India held sway over proceedings.   

India may still fall short of Australia’s first innings total after they were reduced to 462 for eight at close of Sunday’s third day’s play here at the MCG, but there was no denying the spirited fightback they put up in the face of enormous adversity.

Kohli, who notched up his highest Test knock yet and fourth in Australia, further established his credentials as a future great with a century that not only oozed class but smacked of arrogance as well. Rahane, in fact, was the pacemaker with his third career century which is also his individual best. The pocket dynamo, got off to an edgy start, but then essayed an array of fours that eased the pressure on Kohli. Both Kohli and Rahane had the rub of the green going their way, dropped on 88 and 70 respectively, but it did little to quieten their intent.    

There have been a few phases in this series when Australia have been surprised by the gutsy batting that India have come up with but the Kohli-Rahane duet would have badly bruised their egos. Seldom visiting sides have regarded the Australian bowling with such disregard. Indian batsmen (read Kohli) talked but they also walked the talk. There was a little passage of play when Kohli appeared to be losing it when he got into a verbal spat with Mitchell Johnson, who was steaming in with the second new ball, but the batsman did well to regain his focus.      

Kohli and Rahane’s stroke-making would have reminded the Indian fans of the 222-run partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin against South Africa in 1998 when the two former Indian captains put the much-vaunted home attack to sword during a 40-over mayhem in Cape Town. Kohli obviously is easier on the eye but Rahane is no less a treat when he times his strokes through cover. What stood out on the day, though, was their audacious pulls off Johnson and company.

There was a particular stage of play when Kohli creamed the left-arm fast man for three consecutive pulled fours, one better than the other. Not to be left behind, Rahane took the bowler on in splendid fashion, clearing his leg and clubbing the bowler through mid-on and mid-wicket. These two shots sandwiched a punch through extra cover.

Johnson went for 34 runs in four overs at this point while his final tally read 133 for one. Nathan Lyon (2/108) was another bowler who joined the club of centurions on the day. Ryan Harris, however, held his own amidst the Indian domination. The 35-year-old showed just why the Australians value him so much with figures of 4/65 that brought Australia back into the game. 
        
While it was a largely productive day for India, there were some forgettable moments too. Once Rahane fell to a debatable lbw decision, India conceded the momentum. Debutant KL Rahul, perhaps, had a brain-freeze when he attempted a second sweep to get out after being dropped off a similar shot only the previous ball. MS Dhoni and R Ashwin failed to hang around for too long as India slipped to 462/8 from 409/3.        
DH News Service

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