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14.09.2018  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

In the history of cricket, there have been innumerable occasions when a player who had been playing for his place in the team came good in the nick of time. At the Oval, two Indian players, K.L. Rahul and Rishabh Pant came to the party on the last day of the series.

Both K.L. Rahul and Rishabh Pant came good in the second innings of the Oval Test when there was enormous pressure on them to perform or perish. Both were playing for their places in the team.

K.L. Rahul's gem of an innings

Rahul had been given a long rope in the series and he played in all the Test matches in spite of his poor form. Before the Oval Test began, everyone felt that the young Prithvi Shaw should be given a chance in place of Rahul. But the team management kept faith in Rahul and gave him one final chance at the Oval.

After repeated failures, Rahul finally came good in his 10th innings of the series. His previous best score in the series was 37. His total aggregate in the series in his first nine innings was a meager 150 runs. In his 10th innings of the series, he scored a magnificent 149 with the help of 20 fours and one six.

Rahul, at last, camegood
In the second innings of the Oval Test, chasing a target of 464 runs, India were perilously placed at two for three when India's most successful batsman of the series, Virat Kohli got out for a duck. The match looked like heading for an early finish.

That was when Rahul got going as he put on 118 runs with Ajinkya Rahane for the fourth wicket. Rahul was going for his shots from the beginning, as if this was the last innings of his career.

That enabled him to be on his natural self and runs started flowing once he got into the rhythm. Even the dismissals of Rahane and Vihari didn't deter him from playing his natural game. Rahul showed a lot of grit and determination.

Rahul put on 204 runs with Rishabh Pant for the 6th wicket. Rahul completed his century off 118 balls. As long as Rahul was at the wicket, the Indians had an outside chance of chasing down the target of 464. This was after India were reduced to two for three. After playing a chanceless inning, Rahul got out immediately after Tea. It needed a special effort from Adil Rashid to get rid of the well-settled Rahul. Adil Rashid bowled a Shane Warne- like delivery which turned a long way after hitting the rough almost on the edge of the cut strip on the leg stump and knocked back Rahul's off-stump. Rahul left the scene to a standing ovation.

Rishabh Pant has been a treat to watch

Rishabh Pant was under fire coming into this Test match. His keeping was below par and he had conceded a record number of byes in the series. His batting was always in the T20 mode as he tried to hit his way out of trouble.

The result of the fourth Test match could have been different had Pant stayed put with Rahane in the second innings of that Test. The experts felt that Pant was not yet ready for Test Cricket.

In the Oval Test too, Pant continued to be sloppy behind the wickets and got out to a poor shot in the first innings. When Pant came out to bat in the second innings, it was now or never for him. Pant, in his natural flamboyant approach to batting, started hitting the spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid out of the attack. He didn't spare the fast bowlers either as Stokes and Anderson were given the charge.

Pant was fearless in his approach and at one point in time, both Rahul and Pant were seriously going for the target. Pant completed his 50 off 78 balls. His second 50 came off just 39 balls as he reached his century off 117 balls with 14 fours and 3 sixes. Pant reached his maiden Test century in style by hoisting Adil Rashid for a huge six.

Pant put on 204 runs with Rahul which came off just 258 balls. Pant became the first Indian wicket-keeper to score a century in the fourth innings of a Test match. Finally, Pant got out for 114 going for a big shot against Adil Rashid. In hindsight, Pant should not have gone for that shot immediately after Rahul got out. But Pant thought he could win the game for India on his own. It was a sad end to a great inning.

It was a pity that the brilliant efforts of both Rahul and Pant went in vain as India lost the match by 118 runs and with that the series by 1-4 margin. The margin of defeat in the series is not a true reflection of the Indian players' efforts, especially of the fast bowlers.