For Ajinkya Rahane, the upcoming tour of South Africa will be a golden chance to kickstart his international career.
Despite being one of the most consistent batsmen at the domestic level, the 25-year-old right-hander has not been able to break through in the Indian team.
He has been in the squad for a couple of years now but making it to the playing eleven has proved to be difficult.
The right-hander has played 17 ODIs since making his debut in September 2011 and has featured in just one Test match despite being in the squad for nearly two years now.
The Indian selectors have provided him with another opportunity to showcase his abilities by naming in both the ODI and Test squad for South Africa. And with the recent retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, this could be Rahane’s golden opportunity to find a place in the playing eleven of the Test team.
The youngster provided ample glimpses of his potential as he hit a sparkling century on Saturday to put Mumbai in sight of an outright victory while also gaining some much needed batting ahead of the tour of South Africa next month.
Rahane hit 133 from 204 deliveries, while Aditya Tare slammed 172 from 190 balls enabling Mumbai to set Vidarbha a mammoth 530 for victory.
But the visitors came up with another disappointing batting performance and were on the verge of defeat after being reduced to 177 for eight at close on the third day at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.
Rahane, who has been named in both the ODI and Test team for the South Africa tour, says the time spent out in the middle helped him getting his rhythm back.
“I was looking to get set and spend a lot of time at the wicket which will also be a good batting practice for me. Before going to South Africa, this game was crucial for me in terms of match practice. So I was just focussing on getting my rhythm back and give my hundred percent for the team,” he said.
India will play three ODIs and two Test matches in South Africa, from December 5-30.
Even former India batting great Rahul Dravid, who was Rahane’s captain at Rajasthan Royals, believes the youngsters needs to be given a longer run at the international level.
“I think he is an exceptional player and Rahane has really done very well. Whenever the opportunities have been given to him he has done well. I really hope that he gets a slightly longer run to show his worth. He has really flowered as a player,” Dravid had said last month.
Rahane has been in good form recently having made four consecutive half-centuries in the Champions League T20 tournament last month. He scored a fifty on a difficult wicket against Haryana in Lahli before following it up with a hundred in Mumbai.
He boasts of an amazing record in first class matches, having made 5692 runs in 64 matches at an average of 59 with 19 hundreds and 24 fifties.
Rahane revealed that he has been practicing for South Africa for the last few weeks where the pitches are expected to provide a bit of help for the fast bowlers.
“I have practicing before this game for the South Africa tour but from the last four days I am focussing on this game and on my batting. I have preparing for South Africa tour,” he said.
Mumbai captain Zaheer Khan, who has been named in the Indian Test team, will also be leaving for South Africa with the ODI players to acclimatise to the conditions.
Rahane believes the veteran pacer’s presence will be missed by Mumbai and the young bowlers will need to come up with good performances.
“Zak’s presence is very important for our team, the amount of experience he has got is crucial. He will be missed but the young bowlers are also doing well and it is a good opportunity for them to do well in his absence and win matches for the team,” he said.
Mumbai 261 and 381 for 4 decl. (A Tare 172, A Rahane 133, S Yadav 49 not out; R Jangid 2 for 88)
Vidarbha 113 and 177 for 8 (S Shrivastava 69, Shrikant Wagh not out 34; S Thakur 2 for 46, A Dabholkar 2 for 21).
Sandeep Sharma guides Punjab to victory
Rohtak: Punjab produced a fine bowling effort before their batsmen just about held their nerve to carve out a three-wicket win against Haryana on the third day of their low-scoring Group A match of the Ranji Trophy.
Overnight 117/5, Haryana were bowled out for 155, leaving Punjab a paltry target of 135 to chase. The hosts overhauled the target after much struggle to grab the six points.
Sandeep Sharma was the star with the ball for Punjab as he snared six wickets for 50 in his 17.2 overs. VRV Singh also chipped in with figures of 3/50 to round off a fine bowling performance by the home team.
The top-scorer for Haryana in the second innings was Avi Barot, who made 31 off 87 deliveries, including four hits to the fence.
Punjab made heavy weather of the chase but eventually pulled through to win the match with a day to spare.
The hosts found themselves a wicket down even before a single run had been scored. The wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals before Sandeep (37 not out) turned out to be the hero with the bat as well.
He shared a 71-run seventh wickets stand with Gurkeerat Singh (37) to take the home team past the finish line.
Sandeep's knock came off 65 balls and included a couple of boundaries. Gurkeerat was the more aggressive of the team, hitting three fours and a six in his 38-ball stay at the crease.
For Haryana, Mohit Sharma and Harshal Patel snapped up three wickets apiece.
Haryana: 163 and 155
Punjab: 184 and 135/7 in 45 overs (Sandep Sharma 37 not out, Gurkeerat Singh 37, Mohit Sharma 3/38).
Bengal take six Services wickets, sniff 1st innings lead
New Delhi: Bengal bowlers toiled hard to restrict Services to 261 for six, giving themselves a good chance to grab first innings lead on the third day of the Ranji Trophy group B encounter.
With Services needing another 171 runs to get first innings lead, Bengal have a slight edge as they have to run into the home team's tail at the Airforce Ground in Palam.
For Services, a 131-run partnership between Vishnu Tiwary (71) and Soumya Ranjan Swain (56 batting) in 39.4 overs did raise visions of a splendid fight back but Bengal's saviour in this match Sourashis Lahiri dismissed Tiwary at the end of the day to get the initiative back.
Ashoke Dinda (3/75 in 25 overs) was the most successful bowler but Lahiri (2/62 in 19 overs) made the most impact as he removed Tiwary and Yashpal Singh (11) with couple of good deliveries.
While Tiwary was adjudged leg before as he tried to sweep, Yashpal was out when Wriddhiman Saha effected a brilliant stumping. Lahiri had tossed one up and Yashpal went for a drive and in the process lost his balance.
Saha whipped the bails in a flash and third umpire gave the batsman out. The morning session belonged to Bengal as they removed the top order quickly once the opening partnership produced 65 runs.
Anshul Gupta was the first to get out as he couldn't flash hard at a Dinda bouncer and the ball ballooned to gully where Anshutup Majumdar took the catch low down.
Gupta made 22 with three fours. His partner Pratik Desai was more aggressive as he took on Dinda pulling him for a boundary. A thick outside edge that flew past slip brought his 50 off 64 balls.
Immediately in the next ball Dinda again bowled a bouncer which Desai played an ugly pull shot which was caught by Shib Shankar Paul at short fine leg. Desai's 52 had eight boundaries. Nakul Verma didn't last long as Majumdar at silly point caught him for 10.
After Yashpal was dismissed, Services went into lunch at 122 for four. Rajat Paliwal (25) was out immediately after lunch as he was bowled by Dinda playing to wrong line. The delivery moved away after pitching.
After that Tiwary and Swain played sensibly as they hit boundaries as well as took singles and twos. Tiwary hit 7 fours in his 150 ball knock while Swain has 6 fours in the 175 balls he faced so far.
Services 261/6 (Vishnu Tiwari 71, Soumya Ranjan Swain 56 batting; Ashok Dinda 3/75, Sourashis Lahiri 2/62).
Himachal thrash Assam by an innings and 221 runs
Dharamsala: Himachal Pradesh trounced Assam by an innings and 221 run after the visiting batsmen collapsed miserably on the third and penultimate day of their Group C Ranji Trophy encounter.
After amassing a mammoth 463 for nine in their first innings in response to Assam's paltry 81 all out, Himachal bowled out the visiting side for 161 to record the huge win.
Assam were overnight 97 for six Dheeraj Jadhav put up a stiff resistance to post a half century. His 52-run knock came off 125 deliveries and included six hits to the fence.
His was the last Assam wicket to fall in what was otherwise a shambolic batting performance.
For Himachal, Rishi Dhawan picked up a five-wicket haul, conceding merely 58 runs in his 18.5 overs. Vikramjeet Malik also chipped in with figures of 3/40 in 20 overs.
Himachal Pradesh: 463/9d
Assam: 81 and 161 in 53.5 overs (Dheeraj Jadhav 52, Rishi Dhawan 5/58)
Tripura bounce back against Goa
Porvorim: Tripura bowlers came back strongly to keep their hopes alive for an interesting finish as they bowled out Goa for 177 in their second innings of the Ranji Trophy Group C match.
At draw of stumps, Tripura, who conceded 78-run first innings lead, were batting at 69 for two in their second essay with K B Pawan (33) and Y V Takawale (12) at the crease, chasing a target of 256.
Resuming at an overnight second innings score of eight for no loss, Goa lost three wickets quickly with the score of 41.
Swapnil Asnodkar was the first to go when he was run out for 17. Spinner Acharjee, who bowled economically, then dismissed A S Desai for 16. Sagun Kamat did not last long as Viki Shah cleaned bowled him for five with Goa struggling at 41 for three.
With wickets falling at regular interval, Keenan Vaz, coupled with H H Gadekar (20) to steady the boat for a while before the former fell soon after lunch for a well-made 32.
Thereafter Goa's last batsman -- B A Mangaldas -- who hit four sixes and two fours, added 56 valuable runs for the last wicket with Gadekar to take Goa to 177 before he fell to Mora Singh for 41.
Tripura's Rana Dutta, M B Mora Singh, Sanjay Majumdar and K K Acharjee bowled well to take two wickets each, while Viki Saha took a wicket.
In reply, Tripura lost two quick wickets with Gadekar and A R Yadav claiming wicket apiece.
Image: Ajinkiya Rahane
Photograph: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images