For 311 deliveries that KL Rahul faced during the fifth India v EnglandTest at the MA Chidambaram stadium, the Karnataka batsman treated each delivery on its merit. He mixed aggression with resolute defence throughout day two. He danced down the track to hit Liam Dawson out of the attack, employed the sweep and reverse sweep only to the balls that were outside off stump and reaped the rewards. He cross the 100-run mark in Tests for the first time in India, and then raced past 150, he was poised for 200.
All the while he was focused — barring one delivery. Unfortunately that delivery, tossed up outside off from Adil Rashid, was the one Rahul tried to take a single to reach 200. It was not overptiched for Rahul to drive through covers, yet he went for it thinking of an easy single to raise his helmet high. It was a length ball that Rahul should have drove towards mid-off. He did not treat this ball on its merit and paid the price. The ball was lobbed to point and Jos Buttler completed the catch; Rahul was on his haunches, hand over his head in disbelief and he had to drag himself off the pitch thinking of the agony of that one run.
But the 199 that he made, his fourth Test hundred and first in India, was the fulcrum around which India build their first innings in reply to England’s 477 on Sunday. By the time stumps were drawn, India had score 391 for the loss of four wickets, 86 runs adrift of England’s first innings total.
After building a solid foundation late in day two (60/0), India were primed to dominate the proceedings on a day that looked best for batting. Overnight batsmen, Rahul and Parthiv Patel, showed intent early on and went on to score 92 more runs between them. Rahul danced down the track more often, while Patel with some compact strokeplay notched up his sixth Test fifty before perishing for 71 in the first session.
England made a brief comeback post lunch with the wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara (16) and Virat Kohli (15) in quick succession, but Rahul kept his end tight, till that fateful shot, and in company of his Karnataka teammate Karun Nair, who got to his maiden Test fifty, helped India to a commanding position in the final Test.
England would have expected a tough day in the office and would have liked to take some wickets but that eluded them early on after skipper Alastair Cook opted for a defensive field. The opening duo combined for a 152-run stand, making it the first time in 18 months and 32 innings that India’s opening pair crossed the triple-figure mark in Tests.
Rahul grew in confidence as he unfurled an array of eye-pleasing strokes. He swept the spinners with aplomb and even got a boundary courtesy a reverse sweep against Moeen Ali. However, Ali and Rashid kept England hopes alive with probing spells late in the session. The slowness of the pitch aided the tweakers and with Ali bowling much slower through the air than normal, he induced both batsmen to come forward and play false shots. Patel countered that with aggression and danced down the track to a leg stump line from Ali flicking it over midwicket for a boundary. One ball later, Ali bowled the same delivery, just a tad slower and Patel was on the move. This time around Patel was undone by the dip and mistimed his flick and lobbed the ball to covers and departed for 71.
Starting the second session with only one wicket to show for their efforts, England changed their plans and opted to attack with Ben Stokes and skipper Cook reaped immediate rewards. After the ball went out of shape it was changed and Stokes got a hint of reverse swing with the new ball that led to the downfall of Pujara, three overs in to the session.
Pujara poked at the back of length-outside off delivery from Stokes only managing a thickish edge that was taken at the slips by Cook. Stokes bowled four overs in the spell and was replaced by Stuart Broad who bowled a short of length deliveries with a catcher at short extra cover. In his third over, the plan worked as Kohli went for a drive off a slower one and played it uppishly to Keaton Jennings at short extra and departed. (Source: Times of India)