Melbourne: Runs were at a premium on the first day of the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as India posted an impressive 215 runs for the loss of two wickets here at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Wednesday.
Debutant Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari opened the innings with a solid batting show in the first session as a steady India managed to score 40 without losing any wickets after 18 overs. Soon after, pacer Pat Cummins drew first blood for Australia to remove Vihari with a short-ball tactic which was caught by Aaron Finch at the second slip. Following the cheap departure of Vihari (8), Cheteshwar Pujara came out to share the crease with Agarwal, who was in a brilliant form and ticking the scoreboard.
At lunch, India reached 57 runs for the loss of one wicket. Agarwal and Pujara held India’s fort on 34 and 10 respectively.
Soon after resumption, Agarwal gave a good account of himself, bringing up a maiden half-century on his Test debut on Australian soil. He achieved the landmark in 95 balls. While Pujara impressed the crowd with a sumptuous drive through mid-off and moved to 14 runs.
Agarwal and Pujara frustrated the hosts firmly on the back foot with their 50-run-stand. India moved to three figures within the first 45 overs.
To get the most desired breakthrough, Australia’s hostile spell by Cummins entered the visitors’ fort to dismiss Agarwal for 76, the highest ever by an Indian opener debuting in Australia as he surpassed Dattu Phadkar’s 51 in 1947 and second highest in away Tests. He remained one short to Sudhir Naik’s 77 against England in 1974. Cummins’ delivery was short and angled sharply into Agarwal, who looked for a smart little dab.
But with the ball climbing, Agarwal could not get on top of it entirely and send a glove down to the left of wicket-keeper Tim Paine, who took it smartly behind the stumps.
Following an impressive inning by the Karnataka-born player, India reached at 123 for the loss of two wickets at tea.
To share the onus of India’s fort with Pujara, skipper Virat Kohli came out to the crease amid a few boos ringing around as the match resumed. In the 71st over, Pujara registered his 21st Test fifty. Australia wasted a review as off-spinner Nathan Lyon appealed for leg before wicket (lbw) while bowling the penultimate ball of his over to Kohli, however, it was far outside off stump, according to replays.
The Kohli-Pujara duo brought the 200-mark for India as the skipper remained three runs away from a half-century, while Pujara remained unbeaten on 68. In the end, India posted 215/2 at stumps.