Stand-in skipper Rahane scored an unbeaten 104 in tough conditions to steer India to 277 for five against Australia on the second day of the second Test.
At stumps, which was brought early owing to rain, Rahane was going strong on 104 and giving him company was Ravindra Jadeja on 40, having strung together a 104-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Trailing 0-1 in the four-match series, India is in a strong position with an imposing 82-run lead.
Rahane rode his luck to come up trumps in what is probably, the most important innings of his life.
He got a life when Steve Smith dropped him on 73 at second slip in Australia’s first over with the second new ball, the unlucky bowler being Mitchell Starc, who was taken off the attack after just two overs with the shining red cherry.
Rahane got another reprieve when substitute fielder Travis Head put one down after diving forward from gully, but that was after he had got to the three-figure mark.
Initially, Rahane was more watchful that he had ever been but as the day progressed, he grew in confidence and fluency and went on to play some sumptuous shots, including an elegant off-drive against Pat Cummins.
Rahane needed treatment for what appeared a back problem twice during the afternoon session (and later for blows on the hand and neck) but it did not disrupt his almost zen-like progression at the crease. His 12th Test century, and second at the MCG, came up from 195 balls with a fierce square cut against Cummins
Earlier, Hanuma Vihari fell to off-spinner Nathan Lyon while trying to sweep him from outside off-stump after he had added 52 runs for the fourth wicket with his captain.
The best batsman was Rishabh Pant and despite the constant scrutiny around him, the wicketkeeper-batsman showed aggression and intent from the first ball.
Just when Pant was beginning to pose a treat to the hosts, Starc forced an edge to bring the match back on even keel. It was Paine’s 150th dismissal and wicket number 250 for Starc.
Long touted as the ideal Test match opener, Shubhman Gill looked like the real deal.
The 21-year-old Gill impressed on his debut with a fluent 45 and played some fine shots during his 65-ball knock.
It was a pivotal innings as another early wicket after Mayank’s dismissal would have put Australia in the driver’s seat.
Gill certainly has high standards that bodes well. Later he admitted, analysing his performance- “Overall I wanted to play with intent and build partnership which I did to some extent but I am not satisfied the way I got out, it was last ball of Cummins’ spell and it was a loose shot.”
India will be encouraged by the turn Nathan Lyon extracted from the wicket, on just the second day.
The MCG is known to help spinners in the fourth innings and the cracks will open up further, which could help Ashwin and Jadeja to go for the kill.
If that happens, we could be set for a truly mouth-watering Test series.