Mayank Agarwal displayed his class and showed that patience can reap rich rewards as he blasted a fifty on debut in the Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne. Agarwal, who became the 295th player and 26th individual from Karnataka to make his debut for India, looked in fine touch as he got his eye in on a Melbourne wicket that was good for batting. After playing out the first six overs cautiously, Agarwal got off the mark in streaky fashion by chasing after a wide ball from Mitchell Starc and edging it to the third man fence. However, the right-hander looked in confident touch against Nathan Lyon, Australia’s leading wicket-taker in this series by hitting him for two boundaries. His 40-run opening stand with Hanuma Vihari had ensured India played out the most testing period of the match. Following the lunch break, Agarwal hit a boundary off Josh Hazlewood through extra cover and he brought up the fifty in style by drilling Lyon straight down the ground for two boundaries.
The Boxing Day fifty is redemption for Agarwal, who has been banging on the doors of the Indian cricket team for the last couple of seasons. In the 2017/18 season, Agarwal scored the most runs in the Ranji Trophy and in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, smashing over 2000 runs in the process. He was picked in the Indian squad for the two Tests against West Indies at home but he did not get a game as Under-19 winning captain Prithvi Shaw got the nod ahead. When Agarwal was not picked for the series against Australia, it seemed that his time with the Indian team might be delayed even further.
However, Shaw suffered an injury in the warm-up game in Sydney against Cricket Australia XI and he did not play in the first two Tests. Murali Vijay and KL Rahul opened but they struggled and when the news came that Shaw was ruled out for the entire tour, Agarwal was flown in as a replacement. The right-hander had done well for India A in the series against New Zealand A, scoring a couple of fifties in the four-day fixtures.
Agarwal continued to grow in confidence as he danced down the track and clobbered Nathan Lyon to the deep midwicket fence for the first six of the game. The right-hander showed his class by driving Pat Cummins to the deep extra cover fence but in the last over before the tea break, Cummins banged a bouncer on leg stump and the batsman gloved it down the leg side to be dismissed for 76.
With Agarwal showing his class at the top of the order, the Indian batting has assumed a solid look as they aim to break their series jinx in Australia.