In chasing 189, after bowling out Australia for 188, India were in a precarious situation at 83/5 in 19.2 overs. Rahul, who had taken an excellent diving catch of Steve Smith and did a tidy job with his glovework, then stepped up in an under-pressure situation by slamming an unbeaten 75.
Along with Ravindra Jadeja's 45 not out, he was involved in an unbroken 108-run stand for the sixth wicket to India get over the line and take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
This was not the first time Rahul engineered a rescue act of this kind for India in ODIs. Previously, in the second ODI against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, in January 2023, India were in a precarious situation at 86/4 in a chase of 216. Then, Rahul stepped up under pressure to slam a gutsy unbeaten 64 and take India over the line for a series victory.
"He has really done well to keep the selectors interested ahead of the WTC final. Two things, one for the ODI series when Rohit Sharma returns and the other for the WTC final. India can bolster their batting if Rahul can keep wickets," Shastri told Star Sports after the match.
In the preceding Test series between India and Australia, Rahul opened the batting in matches at Nagpur and New Delhi. But low scores meant he was out of the eleven for games in Indore and Ahmedabad, as well as lost his vice-captaincy in the format too.
Shastri also claimed Rahul can bat in the middle-order and be the wicketkeeper India needs in the WTC final. Against Australia, in the absence of Rishabh Pant, KS Bharat kept wickets in all four matches, but got mixed results with bat and gloves.
"Rahul can bat in the middle-order No. 5 or No. 6. In England, you have to generally keep wickets from far behind. You don't have to keep up to the spinners a lot. He has 3 more ODIs to go before the IPL. He can cement his place in that Indian team," added Shastri.
The WTC final between India and Australia will be played from June 7-11 at The Oval. This will be India's second straight appearance in the WTC final, having lost to New Zealand in the 2021 tie at Southampton. (IANS)