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Wisden’s Test innings of the year: No.1 – Ajinkya Rahane’s 112

Ajinkya Rahane 112
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 3 minute read

Occupying the top spot on Wisden’s Test innings of the year list – part of the 2020 in Review series – is Ajinkya Rahane’s 112 at Melbourne, a knock that inspired India’s remarkable turnaround.

Ajinkya Rahane 112 (223)

Australia v India
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
2nd Test
December 26-29, 2020

The lead-up couldn’t have been any more dramatic. For Ajinkya Rahane, India’s stand-in captain, the Melbourne Test was baptism by fire – around him was a team crushed just days ago by a bewildering collapse and was left with an absence too big to fill when Virat Kohli flew back.


Yet, there could have been no one better than Rahane to take on the challenge: a stone-faced leader who spurned useless chatter, banter and mind games, and earnestly went about his duty. India needed calm after strolling into a hurricane, and they could have trusted Rahane to soothe troubled heads. But more than Rahane, the captain, the Melbourne miracle was about Rahane, the batsman.

Before Rahane walked in on day two, India’s batsmen were being made to prance around by Australia’s envious pace battery – deliveries were zipping off the pitch and cutting batsmen in half or jagging off the seam and racing past the blade. Two balls in, he saw Cheteshwar Pujara depart, a batsman who averaged 74.42 on India’s previous visit to Australia, and is probably their most important batsman without Kohli. At 64-3, and 131 runs behind, India were drifting towards another tempest.

The skipper seemed to be batting on a different pitch though, the steely determination in his eyes a constant fixture over the next 221 deliveries. The use of soft hands to balance late swing and extra bounce was sublime, so was his ability to read the length quickly. He did not score a single run off his first 16 deliveries and stayed comfortably silent for the next 44 deliveries before a crunching pull shot off Josh Hazlewood fetched him his first boundary. It was clear that he would be dictating his own pace as he pleased.

There were surprises of all sorts along the way: one Nathan Lyon delivery pitched outside off, turned and flew way down leg. Later, light showers made sudden appearances to add to the pitch’s moisture. You didn’t know what came next, but Rahane’s resistance continued.

Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant had played their small part in taking India into the lead, but, at 173-5, Australia had found a window to claw back. But they just couldn’t break into Rahane’s fortress, and he kept drilling the loose ones away as he slowly constructed his innings.

The new ball brought on more challenges, but the zen-like Rahane had wired himself to wriggle past it all. After being dropped by Steve Smith in the 81st over, Rahane, then on 73 off 168 deliveries, freed up, scoring 23 off the next 23 balls. Four of those came from a delectable cover drive off Pat Cummins, a shot that summarised the purity and poise of his innings.

Just like his fifty, Rahane’s century came off a boundary, a beautiful square cut that flew to the backward point fence. The cameras zoomed into his face, probably used to the ecstatic celebration India’s full-time captain so often displays, but Rahane was in his own trance, only breaking out of it when he saw Jadeja’s face at the other end. It was the eighth century by an Indian captain in Australia, but in terms of sheer value, there were hardly any that came close.

In Marathi, his native language, the name Ajinkya means invincible. For over six hours in Melbourne, Australia’s bowlers just couldn’t get the better of ‘Ajinkya’ Rahane.

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