Confidence is KL Rahul’s middle name. Having scored back-to-back centuries in the Duleep Trophy final, the 22-year-old must have been on cloud nine. On Saturday, the penultimate day of the match, his second hundred put South one step closer to winning the title. Responding to Central Zone’s target of 300, Rahul walked back unbeaten on 121 off 132 balls with the side needing 117 more to lift the Duleep Trophy.
With the selectors scheduled to pick the India team for the tour of Australia on December 4, Rahul has done his bit. It will be interesting to see if he can take South Zone home by staying till the end. He has already shown that he can bat, now it is up to him to display his maturity and see the team home.
It will also be interesting to see if the selectors decide to go in for the tried and tested while picking the reserve opener for the Australia tour or try to blood in a rookie in Rahul. In the 2009 edition of the Duleep Trophy, Dinesh Karthik had hit back-to-back centuries when the two teams had clashed in Bangalore. On Saturday, it was Rahul’s turn and Karthik was cheering him on from the pavilion, all padded up. Interestingly, that knock had helped Karthik make his comeback into the Test squad.
Compared to the first innings, where he was absolutely flawless, Rahul started a bit shaky in his second essay. It was not that Rahul was under pressure, barring negotiating the odd ball when the seamers managed to hit the deck on the fourth-day Kotla wicket.
Twice he got a leading edge and was beaten too a few times off Ishwar Pandey and Pankaj Singh. But what followed after that was a delightful knock. He reached his fifty with a six off Piyush Chawla and never looked back. He tonked the spinners for five sixes and 12 boundaries. He stood tall to the pacers and frustrated them with his perfectly timed strokes.
A keen follower of South African batsman AB De Villiers, Rahul tried to emulate him in his 121. He reverse swept offie Jalaj Saxena for back-to-back fours and like De Villiers, who liked to jump down the track against spin, Rahul stepped out lofted leg-spinner Piyush Chawla over long-on to bring his second successive ton.
Brief scores: South Zone 184/1 (KL Rahul 121 n.o., B Aparajith 30 n.o., R Uthappa 30) vs Central Zone 276 & 403 (R Bist 112 n.o, A Murtaza 50; S Gopal 4/60, P Ojha 3/99)..