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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2020 Test batting winner: Cappy takes charge

The winner of the Test batting award defined the idea of a captain's innings

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
The shot that brought up Ajinkya Rahane's 12th Test century, Australia vs India, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 2nd day, December 27, 2020

Test century No. 12 for Rahane was of a different order of magnitude than the ones before  •  Getty Images

"Yes. No. F**k's sake." (As lip-read in super slo-mo.) And then the hand raised in apology. Then the pained look on his face watching his captain, whom he has just run out, walk back. Then, being dismissed himself eight runs later, seemingly still in shock, in a collapse that spilled over into the next innings, the infamous 36 all out. It was in these circumstances that Rahane took over the captaincy for the Melbourne Test and the rest of the series.
Walking in at 64 for 3 in response to Australia's 195, he responded with a century that rescued India's tour. He batted like a man who backed himself, bucking a discernible trend where he looks for an early boundary or two, and in doing so, provides bowlers a chance.
Rahane trusted his defence, got himself in, and only then let his dominating instincts take over. He drew the benefit of an attack blunted by him, and Cheteshwar Pujara and Shubman Gill before him. He needed treatment for what appeared a back problem twice, and for blows to the hand and neck. With three first-choice players missing, the shock of 36 all out, having lost the toss in a game at an away venue against one of the best attacks of all time, Rahane sent India on their way to arguably their greatest comeback win away from home.

Key moment

More than a moment, it was the slow, assured start. In the last three years, no India batsman had hit more not-in-control boundaries in the first 30 balls of an innings than Rahane. In this series, though, he registered two of his lowest scores after facing 25 balls: 1 and 3. He gave the bowlers little chance at the start of the innings, and then punished anything loose.

The numbers

12 Number of hundreds (including Rahane's) made by a visiting captain in Australia when winning a Test. The last to do so was Graeme Smith in 2008.
8 Number of centuries by India captains in away wins; Virat Kohli has three and Sourav Ganguly two.

What they said

"The captain's century came at a time when India could easily have faded to a two-nil deficit, and it was this performance that gave his team the conviction that victory was attainable."
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell

The closest contender

Jermaine Blackwood, 95 vs England, Southampton
It came in a fourth-innings chase, the toughest time to bat in recent years, and after his side had lost one opener to injury and three other wickets for just 27. The pitch helped the opposition spinner and seam bowlers alike, but Blackwood took them on and fell only when his side were within 11 runs of the target.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo