KL Rahul batted away that nightmare Test debut by fighting his way to a splendid maiden century on Day 3 of the fourth Test in Sydney, with Virat Kohli doing what he does best in Australia – score runs at will. Despite those two centuries, however, India stay behind the eight ball as Australia chipped away at the wickets to stay on top.
Resisting a disciplined bowling effort from Australia on Day 3 of the fourth Test in Sydney, Rahul gritted his teeth, rode his luck and showed the talent which gave him the opportunity to play for India by making an exemplary 110 (262b, 13x4, 1x6), with Kohli (140 n.o., 214b, 20x4) striking yet another hundred of his own – his fourth of the series -- en route to becoming the highest scoring Indian batsman in a Test series in Australia, beating Rahul Dravid's impeccable record of 619 runs.
The duo's unbeaten partnership of 141 took India to 238 for two in 86.5 overs, before it all went pear-shaped early in the final session.
Rahul had survived a few scares during his battling ton, and his luck finally ran out as an ill-advised pull shot to a Mitchell Starc (21-4-77-2) delivery outside off stump allowed the bowler himself to complete a catch off the top edge.
Ajinkya Rahane, the hero from the Melbourne Test, came in and never looked comfortable, and Shane Watson (15-4-42-2) took advantage of that instability by getting him out lbw off a short delivery that kept low and would have probably missed the top of the stumps even if umpire Richard Kettleborough thought otherwise.
A ball later and Suresh Raina's Test comeback ended in a hurry, as the left-hander threw his bat at an intelligent full and wide delivery from Watson to find the outside edge through to Brad Haddin.
Suddenly India found themselves on 292 for five, trailing Australia by a large margin of 280 runs, but as long as Kohli, who had stormed his way to another century, was still there hope was still very much there for the away team.
Kohli, to his great credit, stayed calm and did not let the wicket-train at the other end bother him too much, with Wriddhiman Saha (14, 50b, 1x4) dropping anchor as well to stop the rot to take India to stead 342 for five in 115 overs at stumps, a deficit of 230 runs from Australia's first innings score of 572.
Earlier, after battling through a difficult final period of the second day on Wednesday, Rohit Sharma and Rahul came into the crease hoping to score a few more runs and enhancing, not just their reputations, but India's chances in this Test match as well.
But what befell them was some seriously disciplined bowling from the Australians, who gave absolutely no quarter while drying up the runs considerably.
Inevitably with pressure and patience – something that the India bowlers have been unable to do all series – a mistake comes, and no prizes for guessing that mistake came via the blade of Rohit, who played the wrong shot to the wrong ball from Nathan Lyon and had all of his hard work undone a ball after reaching his half-century.
Rahul, to his credit, dug in and refused to wilt under the pressure, with Kohli coming in for the final 35-40 minutes of the first session and immediately making the bowling and the pitch look a lot better.
Despite Kohli's quickish runs, all India could manage in the first session was 51 runs, which took them from their overnight score of 71/1 in 25 overs to 122 for two in 55 overs. However, India grew from strength to strength in the second session with Rahul making his mark, before Kohli took over, like only he can.
Rohit and Rahul looked like they were coping with the "Aussie bowlers keeps it in the right channel consistently" challenge reasonably well in the morning, even if not by scoring runs, with chances and balls beating the outside edge very much at a premium.
Indeed, it looked like Rohit (53, 133b, 5x4, 2x6) would carry on and make that big score that has looked impossible away from home for the right-hander after getting to his half-century with a boundary. But a pre-meditated sweep shot to a ball that was way too full from Lyon only ended up in a bottom edge and that red cherry crashing onto the stumps.
Kohli or Rahul nearly fell in the very next ball, with the former just missing an outside edge by a whisker off a ripper from Lyon, before the latter was nearly run out at the other end after a misunderstanding and a fall in the middle of the pitch.
After that chaotic couple of balls, though, Kohli started to play like Kohli with the new India Test skipper taking India to Lunch alongside the rock-solid Rahul, who was extremely lucky to survive right on the stroke of the break, with Steven Smith, of all people, missing a sitter -- and blaming the sun and spider cam rather unconvincingly -- after a mistimed pull shot from the India batsman, who then went on to complete his maiden half-century.
The two batsmen carried on in the second session quite well, rarely looking troubled while ensuring those bad balls were, more often than not, put away. Australia kept plugging away, with Lyon looking like the most likely wicket-taker.
There is certainly spin on this wicket, which, in turn, pushed Smith into bringing himself into the attack, and the captain nearly picked up a wicket as well, finding Rahul's edge, which just evaded Haddin's gloves and looped up harmlessly.
Kohli was unfurling his patented cover drives at the other end, looking more and more in cruise control, with the India skipper taking his partnership with Rahul past 100 runs and his individual score past the 50-run mark.
Rahul, who has this penchant for losing his concentration every now and again, went into the nervous 90s with a fabulous six over midwicket off Lyon and from there it was nervy-scary time for the young right-hander as he scratched his way to 98, before all of that hard work paid off as he stroked one through to the third man boundary to zoom into his first Test century – a moment, no doubt, he will never forget, with tears raining down as he celebrated the momentous landmark.
The new ball brought in the excitement that was missing for much of the day, with Starc, yet again, showing his prowess with the brand new cherry in hand. The left-arm express pacer should have had a wicket as well, with Kohli throwing his hands at a wide delivery, much like Murali Vijay did yesterday, and finding a healthy outside edge which Smith, for the second time in Day 3, dropped.
Nothing much has gone wrong for Smith in this series, but today has certainly not been his day when it has come to fielding, and for the Kohli drop he could not even blame the spider cam as India chugged along riding on their captain's brilliant century.