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Virat Kohli, KL Rahul produce middle-order masterclass as India make early World Cup statement

In their World Cup opener against Australia, Rahul and Kohli worked together to preserve India's blushes when their team was trailing 2/3.

They claim familiarity typically creates disdain. It's also a good thing that Virat Kohli and KL Rahul don't appear to have taken that seriously.

India made it through with 165 runs added by KL Rahul and Virat Kohli.AAFP

Rahul's first competitive encounter since May came last month in the Asia Cup against Pakistan in Colombo, when the two finished at 123 for two. When they had finished destroying Pakistan, they had forced India to 356 without suffering any more losses; their 233-run partnership had only broken when India ran out of overs.

India had defeated their fiercest opponents by a record 228 runs because to their incredible partnership. However, the task facing the former captain and his former backup was far more difficult on Sunday night at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

India's attempt to overcome Australia's meek 199 all out in their inaugural World Cup match of 2023 was over before one could say "Jack Robinson." India lost three wickets in the first twelve deliveries of their reply; Ishan Kishan, Rohit Sharma, and Shreyas Iyer were all out of the game without adding a run, and at three for two, they were already behind the eight-ball.

After securing wickets for little less than 50 overs (Australia was dismissed in 49.3), Rahul may have harboured aspirations of relaxing and observing the top order consume the target. Rather, he was thrust into a real predicament and had to put on his game face again within ten minutes of the first ball being thrown. For the first time in their ODI history, India had lost three of its top four ducks, and the steeply listing ship needed to be steadied.

Rahul authoritatively soothed the nerves of the Indians. Even the chase master, Virat Kohli, was unusually nervous; after eliminating Rahul and Iyer in four deliveries, he seemed to be irritated by multiple flicks and misses and attempted a risky pull from outside off-stump against Josh Hazlewood. The upper edge shot towards the square leg. Alex Carey was racing from behind the stumps to get under the skier, so Mitchell Marsh was maybe a little distracted. Mitchell Marsh was hared around from mid-wicket. For whatever reason, India heaved a collective sigh of relief as Marsh allowed the ball to explode through his hands. The game was all but over if Kohli had gone for 12 instead of 20 for 4. That was not, however.

Taking full advantage of the break, Kohli quickly found his rhythm again, depending on accurate placement and explosive racing between the wickets to keep the scoreboard moving. Even more resourceful, Rahul twice chopped off leg-spinner Adam Zampa late for delicious boundaries. Rahul's habit of dead-batting makes him quite frustrating at times, but this wasn't one of those nights. He was optimistic and focused on scoring runs rather than producing flashy strokes. His remarkable comprehension of Kohli allowed them to have a near-telepathic connection.

Chepauk barely blinked, even with 33,000 pairs of eyeballs crammed into the stands. Without the extravagance, the drama, or the fear, this was an incredible comeback. When the two right-handers were in form, they made hitting appear like the easiest thing in the world, so they seemed to ignore the scoreboard. They also flawlessly exemplified the art of batting as a couple, which involved more than just admiring exquisite strokes but also taking care of one another. One batter momentarily lost focus, but the other was in his ear in no time. When a partner noticed that someone was feeling uneasy with a specific bowler, they looked for the release single. For the small children observing in awe and amazement, it was a practical demonstration from two experts near the pinnacle of their respective sports.

India is mostly a top-relying team that looks to its openers to set the tone. Seeing the middle order show up must have been a welcome change of pace for the management team, especially the appreciative skipper Rohit. We aren't done until we are was the loud message that rang out from Kohli and Rahul's willows. The intent and composure with which India transformed a 3 for 2 deficit into a spectacular six-wicket triumph with 52 deliveries remaining will have been observed by the rest of the field. Rahul, 97 years old, and Kohli, 85, put on 165 without stress, without panic, and without haste. It will be difficult to top this as an opening statement.