Melbourne, December 26: Debutant Mayank Agarwal starred with an impressive knock of 76 as India dominated the opening day of the third Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday (December 26).
Agarwal (76) and Cheteshwar Pujara (68*) struck wonderful half-centuries and Virat Kohli (47 not out) also impressed at the MCG on Boxing Day. Indians made most of the flat pitch after skipper Kohli elected to bat first and reached 215/2 at stumps and toiled the Australian bowlers in hot weather.
Pat Cummins (40/2) was Australia's best, although it was mostly short-pitched bowling that looked dangerous. India decided to bat first on a greenish pitch and from the outset, that decision appeared the correct one as a slow wicket offered little for the bowlers.
Agarwal was the more aggressive of India's new opening pair - alongside Hanuma Vihari, who was troubled by short deliveries.
Not long after ducking into a Cummins bouncer to be hit in the helmet, Vihari (8) gloved the paceman and Aaron Finch took a simple catch. Pujara and Kohli also scored runs to pile on to the hosts' miseries.
Here's how the day's play panned out:
The opening session between the two teams ended in a draw as both India and Australia had something to cheer for at the end of the session. From 28 overs bowled in the first session of the opening day, India added 57 runs on the board before losing the wicket of opener Hanuma Vihari.
Mayank Agarwal couldn't have asked for a better setting for his debut game as he scored 34* off 68 balls in the first session. The right-handed Karnataka batsman - who became the first-ever opener since 1947 to play his maiden Test on the Australian soil after Amir Elahi (1947) - looked impressive. Agarwal looked confident against the new ball bowlers and also played Nathan Lyon with a positive intent. He used the depth of the crease well to tackle the spinner, who is going to be key in this game. His attacking intent pushed Lyon on the backfoot as the spinner failed to get any wicket.
Vihari, who opened the innings for India, looked calm and composed and spent the first hour extremely well. It seemed as if the middle-order batsman from Andhra Pradesh would capitalise upon the good start on a pitch that didn't have too much for the pacers.
Vihari did almost everything correct before he was rattled by a short-pitched bouncer from Pat Cummins which hit the batsman's gloves and Aaron Finch pouched a simple catch at second slip.
After the lunch break, the duo of Pujara and Mayank constructed the innings well and forged a partnership of 50-plus for the second wicket. The duo added 83 runs between them before Pat Cummins gave the tourists their second jolt at the stroke of tea break by getting rid of set Agarwal for 76. Cummins got his second wicket of the match also with a bouncer as Agarwal failed to convert his maiden Test half-century into a well-deserved ton.
Before getting dismissed for 76 in the 55th over, Mayank earned some records with his fine knock. He went on notching up his maiden fifty with two boundaries off Lyon. The right-handed batsman played some exquisite cover drives and a six in his 161-ball stay at the crease.
Making most of the opportunity, Agarwal displayed his class and skills with the willow and tormented the Australian bowlers on a pitch that looks conducive for batting. Lyon, who was the hosts' key bowler in the previous match, didn't look as effective for he could hardly get any purchase from the track.
Meanwhile, Cheteshwar Pujara played his natural game as he kept frustrating Aussie bowlers in his trademark style. The Saurashtra batsman showed patience and grit at the crease and remained unbeaten at 33* at tea break.
The Indians dominated the third session completely as they added 92 runs in 34.1 overs and didn't lose any wickets to end the day's play on a high. Kohli - who came out to face the first ball post tea break - looked in cruise control early on.
The Indian swashbuckler was looking in sublime form from the word go and the way he scored first twenty odd runs gave an indication that he was batting on a completely different surface.
The right-handed Indian batting mainstay hit some beautiful drives and paced his innings well. Kohli, who slammed a sensational ton in the first innings of the previous Test, was scoring at will. He got a breather on 47 as opposition captain Paine failed to hold on to a tough one behind the stumps off Starc. The battle between Kohli and Starc after the second new ball was taken was a treat to watch. Starc's spell towards the end of the days' play, apart from Cummins' bouncy spells, was the only positive for the hosts on a frustrating day.
India would now be hoping to capitalise upon the good start from day one and post a decent total in the first innings when they come to bat on day two. While the hosts must be looking to get wickets of the set pair of Kohli and Pujara early on to script a comeback.