Mayank’s impressive debut puts India on a sound footing

Updates from :  The Hindu :

Pujara and Kohli lend further stability to the visitors’ innings, countering hostility from Australia’s pacers on a pitch with inconsistent bounce

The action was gripping at the MCG on Boxing Day. Sparks flew on a surface that quickened up after the early moisture disappeared.

Mitchell Starc, steaming in with the second new ball, angled a scorcher across Virat Kohli, and ‘keeper Tim Paine, diving desperately, grassed a low catch.

Kohli, stroking with typical nonchalance, was on 47, and the Aussie captain’s lapse could have a significant bearing on the third Test.

At stumps on day one, India was 215 for two with Cheteshwar Pujara, on 68, and Kohli batting. Earlier, debutant opener Mayank Agarwal had impressed with his innings of 76.

Applying themselves

It wasn’t an easy pitch to bat on. There were variations in bounce, particularly evident when the ball was banged in short. The sphere climbed at different heights and the batsmen took blows on the body.

Indeed, strokemaking was never easy on this surface of inconsistent bounce. The Indians, to their credit, applied themselves.

Although there was grass on the surface, Kohli rightly opted to bat; the surface could increasingly assist the bowlers as the match progresses.

The Indian batsmen waited for their scoring opportunities on a hot, gruelling, attritional day, and built partnerships.

Mayank put on 40 precious runs for the first wicket with Hanuma Vihari and then added 83 for the second with Pujara. And Pujara and Kohli raised an unbeaten 92 for the third.

Pat Cummins bowled with pace, control and heart and a hostile Starc unleashed a furious late burst but the Indians held their ground.

Pujara, his commitment shining through, cut, punched and glided for runs.

Yet, a thumping off-drive off Cummins screamed for attention. Typically, Pujara defended solidly, wore the attack down.

The charismatic Kohli’s imperious quality was on view when he blasted Mitchell Marsh down the ground, cover-drove Lyon and whipped Hazlewood. The Indian skipper, however, survived some tense late moments.

The focus was on India’s newest opening combination, Vihari and Mayank. Would they, in front of a huge, throbbing Boxing Day audience — the crowd numbered 73238 — and against a high quality attack, provide India a sound start?

The duo displayed resilience. Vihari was circumspect, and debutant Mayank, hardly displaying any nerves on a massive occasion, mixed caution with aggression.

His back-lift might be high but Mayank brings the willow down quickly and gets behind the line. He is slightly square-on but not to the extent that it affects his off-side play.

In fact, much of Mayank’s cover-driving was gorgeous. He pierced the gaps on the off-side, and clipped the bowlers when they erred in line.

The Karnataka cricketer batted with a still head, employed his feet, and was secure in defence and offence. His batting had that vital commodity — balance.

Mayank also handled the short-pitched balls capably, keeping his eyes on the ball and dropping his hands.

Vihari was resolute but Cummins struck him on the helmet with a short-pitched delivery; the batsman took his eyes off the sphere.

Vihari soon fell to a Cummins lifter that seemed to follow him, brushed his gloves, and was held in the cordon.

The openers had batted 18.5 overs to blunt the new ball. The Kookaburra ball moves around in the first 15 overs and the threat had been nullified.

Mayank’s impressive debut puts India on a sound footing

Patience and enterprise

The fleet-footed Mayank continued to bat with a blend of patience and enterprise, lofting and straight-driving Lyon to bring up his fifty.

The Indians were more positive against Lyon. When the ball was flighted, they used their feet, did not get tied down.

Mayank’s fluency on the off-side forced the Aussies to switch to a 7-2 off-side field.

But then, Cummins struck right before Tea, angling a short-pitched delivery into Mayank and getting the ball to kiss the glove on its way to ‘keeper Paine down the leg-side.

Yet, the day at the MCG will be remembered forever by the new kid on the block.

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