KL Rahul is hoping to put 18 barren months well behind him after rediscovering the knack of hitting centuries.
The India batsman was scratching his head over his lack of hundreds, between a Test-best 199 against England at Chennai in December 2016 and an unbeaten 101 to complete Tuesday’s eight-wicket Vitality IT20 trouncing of Eoin Morgan‘s hosts in Manchester.
As he and India contemplate doubling up to seal the three-match series in Cardiff on Friday night, Rahul admits he was running out of theories about why he was habitually falling short of three figures in both international and domestic cricket.
“I didn’t know what to make of it – whether I was in form or out of form, (because) I kept getting the fifties and (then) getting out,” he said.
“Being in and out of the team, injuries and sickness all playing on my mind, kept frustrating me even more.
“(But) I realised somewhere down the line it is still better than getting out in single figures.”
It has been a long wait, but one which could not have ended in more rewarding circumstances for Rahul.
He said: “For a lot of us, it is our first time here in the UK – so every opportunity is gold for us.
“I wanted it really badly and I’m very happy that it came here in England, in the first game of the series.
“I hope I can carry that confidence forward and use the form and make it big.”
Rahul finished what his team-mate Kuldeep Yadav started at Old Trafford, where the left-arm wrist-spinner bamboozled England – taking three of his five wickets in one over.
Asked if the hosts have a weakness against spin, however, Rahul said: “I don’t think it is just England.
“A good wrist-spinner is a good wrist-spinner against any opposition.
“With the kind of skill and quality Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal have, it’s always going to be hard for a team that doesn’t play spin a lot.
“What Kuldeep did was special… (to bowl) balls like that against (Jonny) Bairstow and (Joe) Root, (it) is always hard for a middle-order batsman.”
Kuldeep twice pulled out in his delivery stride – apparently to offset movement being made in the crease by the batsman – as did seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, sparking a minor confrontation with England all-rounder David Willey.
Rahul can see both points of view, but believes Kuldeep and Kumar did nothing wrong.
“It would frustrate me as a batsman,” he said.
“But the margin for error for bowlers in T20 cricket is very little – so whatever tactics they can come up with and whatever they try to do to upset the batsmen is only fair.”
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6:30pm – England’s confidence is fully intact, says Chris Jordan
The England bowler says they still have a lot of confidence in themselves as they look to bounce back from their defeat to India on Friday. Read more on that story here.
3.45pm – Pakistan hold on to world No1 ranking with commanding 45 run victory over Australia
Australia were never in the hunt to haul in world No1 Pakistan’s impressive total of 194 for 7 in the T20I in Harare on Thursday, with the world No2 Ozzies reaching just 149 for 7 off their 20 overs.
The only batsmen to shine for the Aussies was wicket-keeper Alex Carey with a face-saving 37 from 24 balls. Record century-maker on Tuesday, Aaron Finch, went for just 16 while fellow opener Darcy Short struggled to 28 off a glacial 34 balls.
Best with the ball for Pakistan was Shaheen Afridi who took the wickets of Finch, Short and the dangerous Glenn Maxwell for 37 off his four overs.
3.05pm – Jos Buttler’s batting position dilemma ahead of India T20 clash
England face a tough task whether to stick with Jos Buttler in the opening role or bring him down the batting order for England’s T20 clash against India on Friday. It’s a must-win game for the hosts after their loss on Tuesday and will also have to deal with keeping Kuldeep Yadav quiet. Read more with our talking points article here.
2.11pm – Australia face tough chase in Harare
Some big hitting off the last two overs, accumulating 35 runs, has helped Pakistan set a challenging target of 195 for Australia to chase in the Tri-Series today in Harare.
Top scorer for Pakistan as they amassed 194 for 7 from their 20 overs was Fakhar Zaman, who knocked up a blistering 73 off just 42 balls at the top of the innings. Asif Ali also contributed a quick fire 35 off just 18 balls at the death.
Best with the ball for Australia were Andrew Tye who took 35 for 3 from his four overs and Jhye Richardson who too 43 for 2 from his full complement.
12:32 pm – Zaman on fire in Harare
The T20 world No.1 ranking is on the line in Harare today as world No.1 Pakistan take on world No.2 Australia.
Australia won the toss and opted to bowl first, with Pakistan getting off to a blistering start to race to 70 for 1 off just 7.5 overs. Fakhar Zaman is 43 off just 25 balls while Hussain Talat is 23 from 21.
Follow our live scores HERE.
As the hosts prepare to battle back in Cardiff and keep the series alive on Friday evening, Jordan spelled out that they remain optimistic.
Tuesday’s trouncing at Old Trafford was a reality check after England’s six-game white-ball ‘whitewash’ of a depleted Australia last month.
But asked if there is any less belief in Eoin Morgan’s squad, Jordan said: “No, I don’t think so at all.
“We’ve been on a high in white-ball cricket for a while now – and one game, one defeat, shouldn’t change our confidence whatsoever.
“You still want to be on the front foot, still want to play positive cricket.”
KL Rahul hit a century while England had no answer to the left-arm wrist-spin of Kuldeep Yadav, who took three of his five wickets in four balls – including Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root for golden ducks, both stumped off googlies.
Jordan, who also fell first ball later in the innings, added: “The better team beat us on the day.
“It was a good spell from Kuldeep Yadav, first of all, and then a very good innings from KL Rahul.
“They thoroughly deserved the win, but we’ll be looking to bounce back come tomorrow.”
There was consolation for the hosts in Manchester – where they had something to celebrate anyway within minutes of their own defeat, thanks to England’s nervy progress to the quarter-finals of the football World Cup with an unaccustomed penalty shoot-out success against Colombia.
Video footage soon emerged of the cricketers cheering in their dressing-room after the last spot-kick.
Jordan said: “It was a great atmosphere. Everyone was together.
“It was bitter-sweet really, because obviously we lost the game.
“But to see the guys out there in Russia move on to the next stage, it was a good feeling.”
Morgan’s team will be able to watch Saturday’s quarter-final against Sweden in its entirety at their leisure, from their Bristol hotel between the second and third matches of this series.
“You saw (us) celebrating,” added Jordan.
“Everyone is well into it, the whole nation is well into it – so let’s keep it going.
“It’s coming home … it is coming home!”