Ajinkya Rahane’s 50th Test: Five innings that underscore his steel
The Kia Oval Test will be Ajinkya Rahane's 50th.

The fifth Test between India and England at Kia Oval starting Friday will be the 50th for the team’s vice-captain, Ajinkya Rahane.

Since he made his Test debut against Australia at the Feroz Shah Kotla in 2013, Rahane has featured in 49 Tests from which his tally stands at 3113 runs at an average of 41.50, with nine hundreds and 14 half-centuries.

As he plays his 50th Test, here’s a recap of five innings that stand out.

Ajinkya Rahane 103 Lords 2014
Rahane’s 103 on day one of the 2014 Lord’s Test was definitive in the end result. @Getty

103 v England, Lord’s, 2014

This win at the spiritual home of cricket helped MS Dhoni’s team end a sorry run of 14 overseas Tests without success, and will be remembered primarily for two performances: Rahane’s stirring century on day one and Ishant Sharma’s fiery spell on the last day.

Rahane, in his seventh Test, walked to the middle at the fall of India’s fourth wicket with 113 on the board. The batsmen before him had struggled to cope with the seam and swinging on offer at a green-tinged Lord’s, but the 26-year-old batted on a different level, driving and clipping with a crispness and flair not usually associated with visiting Asian batsmen at this hallowed venue. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rahane added 90 for the eighth wicket – he would later acknowledge the lower order for their guts – and when he was out for 103, India had been revived to a healthy 275/9. The next highest contribution to the final total of 295 was Bhuvneshwar’s 36. To score a century in your first Test at Lord’s is something special, and in Rahane’s case it proved match-winning.

Ajinkya Rahane 147 MCG
“I think it was a big statement”: Rahane on pulling Mitchell Johnson at the MCG. @Getty

147 vs Australia, Melbourne, 2014

A Boxing Day century at the MCG is a rare achievement if you’re an Indian batsman. Before Rahane put a ball from Shane Watson down the third man boundary, only six of his countrymen had ever achieved the feat. India were down 0-2 in the series, hoping to win ideally but even a draw at the iconic and intimidating venue could lift the spirits.

In the company of Virat Kohli, who made 169, Rahane put on a 262 for the fourth wicket to push Australia on the back foot. From 147/3, the pair took the score to 409 before the last six wickets fell for 56 runs. But for the 171 balls he was there, Rahane was in control; his attack on Mitchell Johnson, in particular, made for riveting viewing.

As he revealed in a lovely with ESPNcricinfo 16 months years later, he had visualised going back and across to pull Johnson’s bouncer for four. On 115, having played the shot a few times without resounding success, Rahane absolutely nailed one to send the ball flying to the longest part of the ground for four. “All the while I was batting, I knew I was going to hit him the moment he pitched short. I think it was a big statement,” he said, without a trace of arrogance.

Ajinkya Rahane 126 Colombo
Rahane’s 126 in Colombo was his fourth Test century, and first in the second innings. @AFP

126 vs Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2015

In an overall underwhelming series (178 runs in three Tests), Rahane made 126 in the second innings of the second Test at the P Sara Oval – and given the context for India, it was worth its weight in gold. In Galle, Rahane had made headlines when he became the first fielder in Test history to hold eight catches in a game, but all that was shoved into the background as India were beaten.

Needing to win in Colombo to keep the series alive, India managed a first-innings lead of 87 in the second Test. When they batted again, the score was 3/1 when Rahane walked out to bat. Displaying the skills that had marked him out as India’s most improved batsman, he dug in for a pivotal 126 – his fourth Test century, and first in the second innings – to help India towards a match-winning total of 325/8 declared. Only Murali Vijay, with 82, made it past 34.

Ajinkya Rahane 81 Trent Bridge
Rahane scored 81 in a partnership of 159 with Virat Kohli at Trent Bridge. @Getty

81 vs England, Trent Bridge, 2018

A cursory glance at the scorecard for day one at Trent Bridge will tell you that England won the toss, put India in and were frustrated as Virat  Kohli, who made 97, and Rahane, with 81, put on 159 for the fourth wicket. But it will not tell you about how it set the stage for India’s win and how it came after two chastening defeats in the series. For a brief while, Rahane matched Kohli shot for shot and was at his most in the series, which to be fair owed to the best batting conditions of the series.

Though he left room for the doubters to question his aptitude with an over-confident flash at Stuart Broad in the final session, Rahane played an equal role as Kohli in putting India in position for a big total. Thus, for the first time in the series India batted a session without losing a wicket, the first century stand was formed and England were put under significant pressure.

Ajinkya Rahane twin centuries Kotla 2015
Rahane’s 127 helped carry India from 66/3 to 344 in the first innings in Delhi. @AFP

127 vs South Africa, Delhi, 2015

Critics can argue that the series was already won when Rahane shrugged off a lean run of form with twin centuries against South Africa at the Feroz Shah Kotla – just the fifth Indian batsman to score two centuries in a Test – but that would undermine his application on a slow and low surface as well as the mental fortitude needed to break out of a rut and contribute to victory.

It was also the first hundred of the series by any batsman, and the longest individual innings of a series played on rank turners. Back at the venue where he made a forgettable Test debut in 2013, Rahane’s 127 help carry India from 66/3 to 344 in the first innings. The next best score was R Ashwin’s 56, followed by 44 to Kohli. For sheer value, this was one for keeps.