Kolkata : Chasing 216 against Sri Lanka in the second ODI at Eden Gardens, India were in a precarious situation at 86/4 when KL Rahul came in and stepped up in an under-pressure situation to slam a gutsy unbeaten 64 and take India over the line for an unassailable 2-0 series lead, here on Thursday.
In his 64 not out at Kolkata, Rahul played out 60 dot balls and hit six sixes, while taking 34 singles and three twos. India’s run-rate in chasing 216 was never an issue, thanks to an early rush of boundaries.
But this was a knock where Rahul had to be cautious and then open up with a calm head to get India over the line, something which is needed of a number five batter in ODIs during a tricky situation.
In 15 innings at number five, Rahul, once seen as a back-up opener, now averages 54.25 and has a strike-rate of 102.23, reminding everyone of what he brings to the table in Kolkata, at the position for which there are many contenders, including Suryakumar Yadav.
“The good thing about batting at number five is you don’t have to rush. You can take a shower, put your feet up and watch the game. But I always think about what the team needs from me. If you can read the situation when you go in, it helps you and the team.”
“Batting at No. 5 has helped me understand my game better. At No. 5 you have to face spin straightaway; I like balls coming onto the bat but Rohit has been pretty clear that he wants me to bat at No. 5, so that’s what I am trying to do,” the right hander batter said in a post-match chat with broadcasters.
Rahul and Hardik had to weather the early storm and then cash on the loose balls from the Sri Lankan bowlers to stitch a crucial 75-run partnership off 119 balls, before putting stands of 30 and 28 not out with Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav.
“I won’t say it was a flat wicket, or it was doing a lot that it was impossible to bat. When Sri Lanka started, I thought it was a 280-300 wicket. But our bowlers bowled really well to keep them to 220-odd.”
But they put up a good fight, got early breakthroughs to put us under pressure. But I had a good partnership with Shreyas and Hardik. We always try to find a way to win, and it was nice to cross the line in the end,” added Rahul.
Soaking the pressure and then steering a gritty chase means choosing which bowlers to go after and to be under control against who. At Kolkata, Rahul played out overs of leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, which resulted in him giving away just 28 runs in ten overs, while keeping the scoreboard moving against pacers.
“In Guwahati, the openers put pressure on the opposition. Then your mindset is to attack, doesn’t matter who is bowling. Today we lost early wickets, so it was important to soak the pressure. If we are chasing 280-300, then we would attack him. But today there was no need,” he concluded.