Debutant Mayank Agarwal produced a confident 76-run knock before falling at stroke of tea as India made a steady start to the third Test against Australia at the MCG, here on Wednesday.
India did not put much runs on the board, taking tea ay 123 for two, as the batsmen largely remained cautious in the first two sessions.
Agarwal, handed Test debut after KL Rahul and Murali Vijay failed in the first two matches, repaid the faith shown in him by the team management with a half-century.
He fell just before the break, caught down the leg side off Pat Cummins, who had dismissed make-shift opener Hanuma Vihari in the opening session.
With Cheteshwar Pujara, who was unbeaten on 33 runs, he added 83 runs for the second wicket.
Post lunch, India added 66 runs in the second session as both batsmen looked to play with more positive intent.
Australia concentrated on keeping runs at a minimum, with Nathan Lyon (0/39) in particular, bowling to a predominantly leg-side field.
But Agarwal kept the scoreboard ticking after a watchful initial period, reaching his maiden Test half-century off 95 balls. Overall, he became the seventh Indian batsman to score a half-century on Test debut.
It was only the second instance in 11 overseas Tests this year that Virat Kohli was yet to arrive at the crease with 100-plus runs on the scoreboard. The first instance was in Nottingham during the second innings against England.
To their credit Australia created chances in the latter half of this second session. In the 52nd over off Mitchell Marsh, a delivery looped up towards gully off Pujara but fell just short of a diving Usman Khawaja.
Then, three overs later, Agarwal edged Cummins (2/24) through the vacant third slip. The pacer picked himself up though and three balls later he had Agarwal as Australia got a boost going into tea.
Earlier, India won the toss and opted to bat on a docile pitch, putting its sixth opening pairing in 2018, and fifth in 11 overseas Tests this year.
But it proved effective as Vihari and Agarwal put on 40 runs after batting out 18.5 overs, India's longest opening stand in terms of balls faced in Test cricket across Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa since December 2010 when Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had batted out 29.3 overs against the Proteas at Centurion.
The pitch turned out to be a batting beauty as there was good bounce and carry for the batsmen. The Australian pacers had to bend their back to get the Kookaburra ball to rise sharply.
It showed in how Lyon came on to bowl as early as the eighth over, only the second time in his Test career that he had done so. Even in the previous four Indian innings on this tour so far, he had only come on to bowl in the 14th over each time.
Vihari took 25 balls and 33 minutes to score his first run as he batted with patience, which was lacking in previous opening partnerships in the first two Tests.
He was hit on the helmet in the 13th over off Cummins as Australia started bowling short and attacking the batsmen more. The makeshift-opener shrugged it off and went on to face 66 balls, the second highest for an Indian opener in five innings this series.
Cummins got him off a sharp rising delivery in the 19th over, as Vihari took his eyes off the ball and gloved it to Aaron Finch in the slip region. The Australian pacers continued to test the Indian batsmen with sharp bouncers at every opportunity possible.
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