India vs Aus, Delhi Test: End is a beginning
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India vs Aus, Delhi Test: On one of the 13 afternoons between the end of the second Test in Hyderabad and the start of the third in Mohali, two small men carried kitbags into the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai. For the next four hours and a bit, Sachin Tendulkar and Ajinkya Rahane batted on and on at the nets. During the few brief 10-minute breaks between their sessions, the two men talked. Mostly, Tendulkar talked, and Rahane listened.
On Thursday, they again batted side-by-side, at the Ferozeshah Kotla nets, separated only by an unused wicket that hadn't gone under the mower. This, for both of them, was the eve of a very significant Test match - Rahane's first, and Tendulkar's last at home (unless he's still around when the West Indies visit in October 2014, when he'll be 41).
Rahane faced the seamers, leaning forward a touch in his stance, front elbow sticking out, pointing to mid off. He moved forward or back studiously, almost self-consciously, and defended nearly everything with a scrupulously straight bat. Tendulkar faced the spinners, his stance a study in relaxed stillness, a stillness that quickly dissolved into blurry shuffles down the wicket.
Tendulkar entered the series with his future looking uncertain. He had averaged 19.44 across his last two Test series, against New Zealand and England, and announced his retirement from ODIs. The first time he took strike, India were 12 for two responding to Australia's 380. James Pattinson, who had bowled both openers, steamed in.
First ball, Tendulkar took a big stride forward and punched a sweet checked drive to the cover boundary. Next ball, his feet moved the same way, but his hands waited an instant longer to open his bat face and steer it square for another four. Two balls later, he stepped across his crease and tucked it neatly off his hips to the fine leg fence.
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