Rahane had just orchestrated one of India’s most memorable overseas Test wins, with India pocketing the second game of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by eight wickets in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Rahane’s India showed both ‘intent’ and ‘attitude’ in abundance. Over four days, the tourists advertised a full-course meal of grit, skill and discipline. The discipline, in particular, enabled even rookie bowlers to suffocate their rivals for long periods by stringing together an endless garland of dots.
Bumrah and Ashwin served fans the starters on Boxing Day, helping India bowl out Australia for 195. Rahane and Jadeja provided the main course with their partnership on Day Two, helping the team take a 131-run lead.
The performance of debutants Mohammed Siraj and Shubman Gill was the icing on the cake as India first bowled out Australia for 200 and then chased down 70 for the loss of Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Rahane’s praise was fulsome for his two newcomers. “Shubman has done well in first-class cricket, showed intent and composure. Siraj bowled with a lot of discipline. Sometimes as debutants, you can get carried away, but guys who play first-class cricket for four-five years know what to do, it makes a captain’s job easier.”
Captain’s job easy? Anything but. Not when you are down to four bowlers (after Umesh Yadav’s injury) who had already bowled their souls out on a wicket that was getting increasingly flatter and devoid of nip, turn or bounce.
Not when Australia’s lower-order batsmen were making a good case to audition as brand ambassadors for adhesive companies.
Cameron Green and Pat Cummins, who had batted out 18 overs on Day Three, looked more stubborn on Day Four. Defending balls was not proving to be too difficult a task. Scoring though was, with Australia barely scoring at over a run an over.
It was because Rahane had plugged areas where easy runs could be scored. He employed a third man, put a man on the hook and had a deep cover or deep point. Even if Australia’s lead would build, it would build slowly. For the spinners, he either had a long on or long off. All the time, though, he also had men in catching positions.
This was a classic in-out field. India took the new ball almost immediately when it was due. Australia had gone ahead by only 18. Armed with the new ball, Bumrah bounced out Cummins.
Green, meanwhile, defended stoutly and even dished out a couple of rasping cuts. But the spirited Siraj got one to hurry through the tall West Australian, hitting the splice of the bat as Green attempted a pull and spooned one to Jadeja at mid-wicket.
Nathan Lyon too gloved Siraj to the wicketkeeper and with Australia nine down, the umpires extended play for half an hour instead of calling for lunch.
01:172nd Test: Resilient India defeat Australia to silence critics
Ravichandran Ashwin, after a few close calls, got a confused Hazlewood to leave a delivery that hit off-stump. Australia were all out for 200 and India’s target was 70. When both Agarwal and Pujara fell to nicks behind the stumps to Starc and Cummins respectively, India were 19 for 2. Memories of 36 all out must have resurfaced.
2nd Test: India beat Australia in Melbourne to level series
India beat Australia by eight wickets in the Boxing Day Test to level the four-match series 1-1 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday. (AP Photo)
Gill, who was not carrying any baggage of that carnage, stroked a few boundaries to chip away at the target and by the time the calm Rahane crashed Hazlewood through cover on the up, the famed Aussie fighting spirit had evaporated.
It was fitting that Rahane hit the winning runs off Lyon, a pleasure only his great idol Rahul Dravid has derived as an Indian in Australia, in Adelaide in 2003.
2nd Test: Standout moments that helped India win against Australia
India beat Australia by 8 wickets to level the series 1-1. Here we look at the standout moments that helped India win the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. (Reuters Photo)
While that win was memorable too, it wasn’t achieved against the odds. This one definitely was.