Indian captain Virat Kohli heaped praise on Ajinkya Rahane calling him a "top class player" after the two stitched a record-breaking 189-run stand for the third wicket, thereby helping India beat South Africa by six wickets in the first ODI on Thursday, February 1.
Rahane and Kohli blunted South Africa's pace attack after joining hands at 67 for 2 in India's chase of 270 on a slow Kingsmead track in Durban. While the skipper aced yet another chase with his 33rd ODI ton (112), the former made a well-paced 79 from 86 balls.
Kohli and Rahane, with the 189 they added on in Durban, also went past Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid's 158, which had remained the highest third-wicket stand for India against South Africa until Thursday.
Rahane also got to his fifth consecutive ODI half-century -- a streak that began in Kolkata against Australia in September 2017. The middle-order batsman, who had returned to the playing XI after missing the Sri Lanka ODIs at home last year, grabbed the opportunity on a comeback by providing solid support to his skipper.
For most of their 189-run stand, Rahane was the aggressor as he hit five boundaries and two sixes as he took the attack to South African pacers and spinners. Looking to the finish the chase early, the 29-year-old holed out to long on in the 43rd over but he had already done the job for his team.
"Very happy for Jinx [Rahane]. Jinx is a top-class player. We understood fast bowling was going to be a big factor in this tour. He was superb, he took on the fast bowlers," Kohli said at the post-match presentation ceremony on Thursday.
Rahane's solid knock at No. 4 spot should give the team management a lot of confidence after it had tried innumerable players at the batting position without much success.
Overjoyed to see Ajinkya Rahane play. Have always rated him and this is amongst his best one-day innings. Ran beautifully with Kohli and played the lofted hit remarkably. Did his job.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) February 1, 2018
Meanwhile, Kohli is being lauded for getting the team combination right in the first ODI, especially after struggling with it in the recently-concluded Test series, which India lost 2-1.
Notably, Rohit Sharma was prefered over Rahane for the first two Tests despite the latter's staggering overseas average. Nonetheless, the Mumbai batsman got an opportunity in the third Test and scored a crucial 48 in the second innings, helping India win.
Rahane had been warming the benches as he was touted as a contender to the opening spot, which has been firmly held by Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan.
However, Kohli took a U-turn on his stand when he hinted that Rahane could play in the first ODI and the move seems to have worked well for the team and for the batsman himself.