Making a confident start to his Test career, opener Mayank Agarwal stroked a good-looking 76 and took India to 123/2 at tea on the opening day of the third match against Australia at the MCG, in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Agarwal fell short of a century on debut after looking largely untroubled but it was still the second highest score by an Indian opener making his debut away from home.
Cheteshwar Pujara was unbeaten on 33 at tea after India lost make-shift opener Hanuma Vihari (8) in the first session.
This was after India won the toss and opted to bat on a docile pitch, putting its sixth opening pairing in 2018, and fifth in 11 overseas Tests this year.
But it proved effective as Vihari and Agarwal put on 40 runs after batting out 18.5 overs, India’s longest opening stand in terms of balls faced in Test cricket across Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa since December 2010 when Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had batted out 29.3 overs against the Proteas at Centurion.
Agarwal - brought in after failures for KL Rahul and Murali Vijay - batted with confidence, mostly playing with straight bat and treating the balls on merit. The pitch turned out to be a batting beauty. The Australian pacers had to bend their back to get the Kookaburra ball to rise sharply.
Agarwal also showed good intent against Australia’s best bowler in this series so far, Nathan Lyon, starting off with a couple of cover drives before hitting a six over wide long on deep in the second session to bring the crowd to its feet.
It was a debut to remember for the Karnataka batsman, all said and done.