Rescue act places Ajinkya Rahane in the spotlight

The Mumbai batsman scored his first Test century in two years and helped India win the first Test against West Indies.

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Walking in at 25/3 on the opening day of the first Test match against West Indies on Thursday, Ajinkya Rahane had a steep hill to climb.

But at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, the Mumbai batsman was in his element as he delivered his technical best to make sure India soldiered on to a respectable total after the early strikes in the first innings and then strengthened his side's position in the second with a solid century.

Partnering KL Rahul on the opening day at North Sound, the duo put on 68 for the fourth wicket and then Rahane had an 82-run stand with Hanuma Vihari to help stabilisie the innings for the visitors.

"What was important was to have a partnership going and still be positive in our intent," Rahane said. "The partnership with Rahul was crucial at that situation. We were not thinking too far ahead. The motive was to play one ball at a time and take it on from there."

India ended the innings at 297 with Rahane - who has played for North Mumbai Panthers in the inaugural season on T20 Mumbai - top-scoring with a gritty 81 off a 163 balls, aided with 10 fours.

"I thought 81 on that wicket was really," Rahane said. "Yes, I was thinking about my hundred but the situation we are in, 25 for 3, was tricky... I just thought if I could contribute for my team."

In the second innings, with India leading by 75, Rahane made his way to the middle at 81/3 as the visitors stared down the barrel yet again.

This time, Rahane put on a 106-run partnership with captain Virat Kohli for the fourth wicket, his patient knock making sure India remained in the driver's seat at the end of the third day.

"It was important that Ajinkya and Virat stitched together a partnership," KL Rahul observed. "They put some pressure on us. [Rahane and Kohli] stayed patient and played that little spell out and then later the runs came on.

"And we know that they're really, really good batsmen, very skilled, so once they are set they will get a lot of runs and that's what they did."

After Kohli departed, Rahane teamed up with Vihari to forge a 135-run stand and amidst that brought up his 10th Test century and his first in two years since his 132 against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2017.

Rahane fell shortly after for 102, taking 242 balls with 5 fours, but his efforts in both innings helped India to a commanding position that eventually handed them a 318-run victory and earned him the Man of the Match award.

"It feels special," Rahane said. "The first innings was crucial after 25 for 3. We needed a partnership, and the partnership between Rahul and me was crucial... but this hundred was special in the second innings.

"I think first day the wicket was damp," added the 31-year-old. "West Indies bowled really well in that session. But it was important to play as many balls as possible without thinking about runs.

"We wanted to bat 90-100 overs in the first innings knowing runs would come. In the second innings, Virat and I wanted to get a good partnership. We wanted to just bat, bat and bat."

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