Coming in to bat at the fall of Shikhar Dhawan’s wicket in the very first over of the chase, a spot usually occupied by his captain Virat Kohli, Rahul took the attack to the opposition immediately. It was only off the third ball that he faced in the innings — from Chris Jordan — that Rahul hit his first six, a scorching drive into the cover stands. Not the easiest of shots to play at the start of the innings but Rahul executed it to perfection as the crowd erupted.
In the form of his life, Rahul went from strength to strength as he looked to play in the ‘V’ at the start of the innings. The classy drive with the bent knee off David Willey in the very next over was sign enough that this was going to be Rahul’s evening. The fact that he kept rotating the strike and ran the singles made things all the more difficult for the English bowlers.
He did get a lifeline though when Jason Roy dropped a straight forward catch at backward point with Rahul on 17. Rahul would make England pay dearly for that folly. In the very next over, he moved inside the line of the ball to send Liam Plunkett to the fine-leg boundary. In fact, Rahul was in such fine flow that the ploy to bounce him out didn’t work either as the batsman was quick to shift weight onto the backfoot and pull the bowlers with ease. Interspersed among all these shots were reverse sweeps, played with remarkable elan.
The clean and crisp hitting is what made Rahul’s hundred a joy to watch and Kohli was wowed.
“Rahul has come a long way; especially the way he's been batting since the IPL and in that one game in Ireland — so clean and crisp,” he said later. We want guys like him to step up. We don't want to be one-dimensional, we want people going up and down the order.
“He's got a great technique, great temperament and is very hungry and today he was a bit emotional because the last century he scored was against England in Chennai (in 2016) and it's been that long he's been waiting for. It was a great century and a great sign for Indian cricket.”
While defending 160 was never going to be easy, England skipper Eoin Morgan did make mention of the brilliant knock from Rahul.
“Defending 160 was always going to be difficult and then when a guy like KL Rahul gets going, he's difficult to stop,” he said.
Rahul’s innings on Tuesday was on the back of another blinder he played against Ireland in the second T20I when he scored a 36-ball 70. But the groundwork to this version 2.0 started in the IPL when playing for Kings XI Punjab, he amassed 659 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of 158.41. Six fifties and a highest score of 95* was sign enough of a Rahul who was now confident of his standing in the shortest format of the game.
Opening the innings with Chris Gayle, Rahul was often the aggressor and took the attack to the opposition bowlers with his strokeplay. The best part of Rahul’s dominant display in the T20 league was the emphasis on playing in the ‘V’. Unlike most batsmen who try too hard to play flamboyant and unconventional shots in the shortest format, Rahul has perfected the art of mixing the reverse sweeps with the conventional drives to the cover boundary.
Speaking to CricketNext at the start of the IPL, Rahul had emphasised on the need to stay true to one’s style of playing and wanted to do just that at KXIP.
“The way I play the game doesn’t change,” he said. “It will just be more responsibility on me and I love being that person that the team looks up to when it comes to winning games.”
Prophetic words. In the two hits he’s had so far on this tour, K L Rahul has wowed cricket fans all over the world and England’s bowlers could be put to the sword as the summer progresses.
First Published: July 4, 2018, 12:10 PM IST