India’s alternate captain Ajinkya Rahane has filled Virat Kohli’s towering shoes with impeccable style with his 12th-century Test, leading the tourists to an 82-run lead in the first inning over Australia in the second Test.
Leading his country for the second time in Trials, Rahane’s unbeaten 104, the series’ first century, allowed India to surpass Australia’s 195 total on stumps on the second day of the Boxing Day Trials at MCG.
Rahane was knocked down twice, first at 73 and on the last ball of the day when rain stopped the game after Travis Head dropped a mere opportunity.
India will resume on day three at 277-5, with Rahane and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (40 not out) to further punish Australia as they try to level the series into one for all.
Rahane’s incoming patients were not without luck, surviving multiple scares en route to her second-best test score against Australia.
The 32-year-old likes MCG, with their only previous triple-figure score against the hosts at the famous venue in 2014.
Australia captain Tim Paine was left to discard his decision not to have a first slip after lunch as Rahane placed a ball right between the goalie and the second slip that flew over the edge.
Mitchell Starc, who previously became the ninth Australian to take 250 proving grounds, should have had his third scalp of the match when he steamed with the second new ball.
But with Rahane at 73, Steve Smith inexplicably dropped a regulation catch to continue a miserable fight for the world’s number one test hitter.
Smith’s surprising missed opportunity summed up the end of the day for Australia, with the hosts in a flat final session after a 15-minute rain delay.
It’s a notable change in eight days after India’s attempt to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was seemingly doomed after its all-time low of 36 at the Adelaide Oval.
Combined with the fact that Kohli, one of the best hitters in the game, will no longer participate in the series, India had little hope of heading to Melbourne.
The four inclusions of India have played an important role in the revival.
Jadeja’s assured hitting at No. 7 has allowed for stability in the order, while goalkeeper Rishabh Pant (29 of 40 balls) made an entertaining cameo while combining with Rahane for a vital 57-run position in the fifth inning.
Rookie Shubman Gill survived two catches, including one in the second envelope of the day when Josh Hazlewood bowled, but captain Tim Paine made up for the mistake behind the stumps.
Paine’s catch to send Gill (45) to pack was regulation, but his brilliant effort to fire Cheteshwar Pujara two overs later will be repeated for the remainder of the summer.
The Australian fast bowling brigade of Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood worked hard, but the bad course cost them dearly.
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