Even a week earlier, KL Rahul was nowhere in contention for the first-choice XI for the five-Test series against England that begins next month in Nottingham. Neither would have anyone predicted his spot in the three-day practice game that BCCI and ECB scheduled for the Indian side in Durham. Yet a golden opportunity came knocking at his door on Tuesday when he was picked as the wicketkeeper for the tour game after regular keeper Rishabh Pant and senior reserve gloveman Wriddhiman Saha continued their mandatory period of isolating following a Covid-19 scare, and the 29-year-old couldn’t have made better use of it.
India lost their top order early on Tuesday after India, in the absence of Virat Kohli and most of the Test regulars, opted to bat first. Captain Rohit Sharma and his opening partner Mayank Agarwal walked back early while Cheteshwar Pujara was outsmarted by a 20-year-old spinner 20 minutes before lunch as India went three down for just 70.
Rahul then combined with Hanuma Vihari to pull things back with a 40-run stand before Liam Patterson-White got rid of the latter. Rahul then stitched a century stand with Ravindra Jadeja en route to which he notched up his century off 149 deliveries laced with 11 boundaries and a solitary six. He eventually walked back retired hurt on 101.
At the start of India’s World Test Championship campaign, before the home Test series against South Africa, Rahul was axed from the Test side. He last played a red-ball game in the 2019/20 Ranji Trophy series where he returned with 26 and 0 in the semifinal tie, the only game he played in the tournament.
However, consistent show in limited-overs cricket helped Rahul make his case for a Test return as he did with BCCI announcing his name for the Australia tour of 2020/21, although his role was yet to be defined. Much to his misfortune, Rahul was sidelined from the series with a wrist injury he incurred at the nets ahead of the Melbourne Test, but returned to the Indian squad for the home series against England and the WTC final against New Zealand, but made an appearance in none.
With an impressive century now, Rahul has definitely made a strong case for himself to make a return to the India XI for the England series. The last time he had toured the country, Rahul had scored a century at the Oval in the final Test against England in the 2018 series.