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India vs Australia: Agarwal, Pujara & Kohli Give India Control on Boxing Day

Cricketnext Staff | Updated: December 26, 2018, 5:18 PM IST
India vs Australia: Agarwal, Pujara & Kohli Give India Control on Boxing Day

Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari walk out to open. (AP)

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He danced down the track, he laced through the covers, he displayed solid defensive nuance - Mayank Agarwal did everything except for scoring a century on his debut in front of 73,516 people on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne on Wednesday (December 26). His brilliant 76, combined with rock-solid unbeaten knocks from Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli put India on top in the third Test against Australia.

The two have now added 92 runs for the third wicket before stumps on the opening day of the match. India were 215 for 2 in 89 overs with Pujara and Kohli unbeaten on 68 and 47 respectively.

India came into this encounter with a new and inexperienced opening pair of Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari after the misfiring KL Rahul and Murali Vijay were dropped from playing XI. India won the toss and that allowed Agarwal and Vihari to make full use of the best possible surface openers have received in this series. Agarwal opened his account with a gentle push towards covers and was on 17 when his partner Vihari opened his account.

Australian pacers didn't find much purchase off the surface and skipper Tim Paine introduced Nathan Lyon into the attack in only the seventh over to see if he could weave some magic. Agarwal, however, didn't allow the off-spinner to settle in and crafted a couple of eye-pleasing drives through the offside. While the right-hander from Karnataka went after every bad ball, Vihari was more willing to play out time and deliveries.

Things finally started to happen for the home team when Pat Cummins came into the attack. Vihari had already taken a nasty blow on the helmet in the 12th over and when Cummins once again delivered a well-directed short ball, the 25-year-old could only glove it to Aaron Finch at the slip cordon. Vihari only managed eight runs but played out 66 deliveries that ensured Pujara didn't have to face the new red cherry once again. Vihari, however, could have ended with 20-25 more runs if he would have been a bit more positive.

Agarwal almost looked impregnable during his knock and reached his maiden Test half-century off 95 balls by effortlessly drilling a Lyon delivery past the non-striker for four. He became the first Indian opener to hit a fifty on debut. At the other end, Pujara straightaway deployed his usual blocking technique, picking off runs from only loose balls. He rarely looked troubled although he got an inside edge on 33 that didn't to carry to Usman Khawaja at gully.

Seeing Agarwal constantly come down the wicket, Lyon switched to bowling round the wicket and kept pitching on the leg-stump. Agarwal waited for a couple of overs before once again putting his dancing shoes on and smashing the offie for a maximum over cow corner. Agarwal was moving along nicely towards his century before he ended up gloving Cummins' short-pitched delivery to the wicketkeeper just before tea. He hit eight fours and a six during his stay in the middle and was able to achieve the second highest individual score by an Indian in debut innings (Sudhir Naik's 77 against England in 1974 being the highest).

The stage was set for Virat Kohli to stamp his authority and the Indian captain announced his arrival with a whip down the ground for four. The scoreboard slowly started to speed up with Kohli playing his shots freely. He did edge a couple of deliveries but fortunately ended up claiming eight runs off it. Meanwhile, Pujara too ensured that he collected runs off deliveries that were too full or down the leg side. In the process, Pujara also brought up his 21st Test fifty.

It started to get frustrating for the home team and they ended up wasting a needless review on Kohli. Once Kohli got his eye in, the 30-year-old played a couple of beautiful drives down the ground and pushed India past the 200-run mark.

Australia took the new ball in the 83rd over and the onus was on Kohli and Pujara to survive the nervy 30 minutes, which they somehow did. Both Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood bowled their heart out and the former almost got rid of Kohli when he managed to induce an edge that flew to the right of Tim Paine and the Australian captain failed to claim the tough chance. Starc and Hazlewood continued to cause trouble for Kohli and Pujara but both the batsmen somehow were able to see off the tough phase.

With Kohli and Pujara going strong, and the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja yet to come, India will be eyeing that massive first-innings score.
First Published: December 26, 2018, 12:51 PM IST
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RankTeamPointsRating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
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