Ajinkya Rahane and the essence of Test match cricket

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PUNE: The South African bowlers could only scratch their heads after deploying every plausible plan to unsettle Ajinkya Rahane in the first session in India’s first innings of the second Test.

He was comfortably avoiding the deliveries that were away from the stumps and the middle-order batsman was equally solid while defending anything close to his body.

It was a portrayal of the Mumbai batsman’s stubborn characteristic, not giving the bowlers a chance to pounce.

Although Rahane was dismissed for 59 by Keshav Maharaj in the fifth over after lunch, he played through most of South African bowling plans in the 28 overs that he batted for.

His style and tempo might bring out yawns for the ones who are used to fast-paced cricket, but when you have five specialist bowlers on your side, the experience and expertise to play the part showed. Along with Virat Kohli, he added 178 runs for the fourth wicket in 57 overs.

Even South Africa’s interim team director Enoch Nkwe was in awe of the way the duo took responsibility. “They led by example,” he said. “When you bowl to a world-class line-up, that’s what happens. We have to learn from their partnership – how to get through tough periods and apply yourself mentally. They were unbelievable to watch.”
Rahane started Day Two on 17, taking his own sweet time – 80 balls. And the morning session wasn’t any different for him with Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander sticking to the basics of maintaining an outside off-stump line. He was unfazed. Most would say that the team’s vice-captain lacked confidence but this South African pace duo can easily make a feast out of a hesitant batsman. Rahane’s poor county season where he scored just 307 runs in 13 innings seemed to not affect his stride on Friday.
Even when left-arm spinner Maharaj was bowling, Rahane handled him with caution before getting dismissed while facing him for the 40th time in the innings. On a couple of occasions, he sent the ball to the boundary but for most of the time, he was content to defend Maharaj on the front foot.
Rahane was not India’s top batsman on the day, but his gritty effort set the foundation for the hosts to reach the total of 601 for five.

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