Patience pays as Mayank Agarwal gets better of Nathan Lyon and Co

Updated: Dec 27, 2018, 08:21 IST | Gaurav Joshi | Melbourne

As Agarwal walked off, the crowd of 70,000-plus gave him a warm applause and rightfully so. He had done everything asked of him to put India in the driver's seat after Day One

Mayank Agarwal. PIC/AFP
Mayank Agarwal. PIC/AFP

Even after 45 minutes of first day's play of the third Test, it was difficult to gauge Mayank Agarwal's innings. The debutant had accomplished his first task by surviving the new-ball spell from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood to be unbeaten on 17 from 21 balls. The innings was swift, but at the same time, calm and composed. Though the docile pitch had played into Agarwal's hand, the right-hander didn't get carried away.

It wasn't until Agarwal faced his 23rd ball that he made his presence felt. Nathan Lyon, bowling his first over-tossed ball which was slightly wider and an inch fuller, Agarwal crouched low, his left foot went to the line of the ball, his right knee dropped low to the ground, the head close to the ball, the bat came around the right shoulder as he executed a flat-batted cover drive to send the ball racing towards the boundary. It was a jaw-dropping moment of his innings, one that signified his emergence as a Test cricketer.

Four overs later, he executed that shot again, to the same bowler and the result was the same. Lyon knew he was in for a contest. This is the same Lyon that tormented India in the series, but suddenly he had a new contestant. Agarwal spent the last three years on the domestic circuit, travelling the length and breadth of India, plying his trade against various spinners on different pitches. He was never going to be rattled by Lyon, nor was he going to play him on his reputation.

By lunch, he had overcome the short-ball barrage, the disciplined stump-to-stump line and uneven bounce to be unbeaten on 34. After the interval, the first ball he faced was a genuine half-volley from Hazelwood. Agarwal thumped it through the covers for a boundary. Few overs later, the minute Lyon was introduced for his second spell, Agarwal used his feet to deposit him over mid-off and then drilled one past the bowler to bring up his 50 off 95 balls.

He knew when to attack and when to defend. For a period, he scored only seven off 41 balls, but the minute he felt it was time to break the shackles, he smashed Lyon over midwicket for a six. Agarwal took a few blows on the hand, but he continued to play with soft hands. It wasn't until the tea break that the concentration wavered and he gloved one down the leg side for 76. As Agarwal walked off, the crowd of 70,000-plus gave him a warm applause and rightfully so. He had done everything asked of him to put India in the driver's seat after Day One.

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