Friday, May 24, 2024

ICC: Rohit and Rahul roll back the years in defining opening stand

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Photo Credit: ICC

Form is temporary, class is permanent. It’s one of the oldest adages in sport and it has emphatically rung true once more in the case of India’s T20I opening partnership, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.

Back together at the top of the order in Abu Dhabi after a reshuffle saw Rohit moved to three against New Zealand, Rohit and Rahul were looking to make their first impressions of the tournament having both fallen cheaply in damaging defeats against Pakistan and the Black Caps.

To say they did so would be an understatement. Their stand, worth 140 in 14.4 overs, was nigh-on perfectly paced – attacking in the powerplay, initially patient against the opposition’s main threat before putting their feet firmly back on the accelerator – and saw both visibly grow in confidence as it progressed.

Their strokeplay mixed power with precision in devastating style. Rahul was first to clear the ropes, swiping 83 metres over mid-on, while Rohit quickly followed with a glorious drive over long-off as the pair motored along at 10 an over inside the first five.

They then became content to rotate the strike up until the halfway stage, with Rashid Khan’s first two overs safely negotiated before his return saw Rohit’s eyes light up.

Consecutive sixes at the end of the 13th over, over deep mid-wicket and square leg, helped the partnership move from effective to match-defining and came after the pair had moved past their fourth century partnership in T20Is.

Rohit, for his part, has now been involved in each of India’s five highest partnerships in the shortest format and though he soon fell for 74, followed by Rahul for 69, the platform they had established was crucial in allowing Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya to arrive at the crease with freedom.

Neither have had a license to thrill so far in the tournament, instead hampered by the loss of early wickets, but here they were devastating in continuing the attack.

Pant , in particular, displayed his usual incredible array of shots. Whether whipping over deep mid-wicket one-handed or bludgeoning down the ground on one knee, the 24-year-old is a nightmare prospect for opposing bowlers and captains when wickets are in hand and he joined forces with Pandya to take the game away from Afghanistan.

To amass the highest total of the tournament so far and not even require the services of Virat Kohli is testament to the depth in an Indian batting line-up which had performed some way below the sum of its parts in their opening two matches.

Kohli will need his heavy hitters to be equally destructive in their two remaining Group 2 matches, with a run rate swing required if India are to make the last four.

But with their mojo back and the bottom two in the group, Scotland and Namibia, to play, India have given themselves a chance of putting their nightmare start firmly behind them and having a say in the tournament beyond the group stage.

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