Mumbai: Mayank Agarwal struck a fantastic unbeaten century and helped India reach a strong position at 221/4 in 70 overs against New Zealand at stumps after surviving a three-wicket burst in 10 balls by Ajaz Patel on a truncated first day of the second and final Test at the Wankhede Stadium, here on Friday.
Agarwal’s fourth Test hundred, came off 196 deliveries and was studded with 13 fours and three sixes as he propelled India after New Zealand had come back strongly just before tea, keeping one end up even as wickets tumbled at the other. The opener batted with a lot of confidence, did not play any false shot and was batting on 120 (226 balls, 14×4, 4 x 6) at stumps, with Wriddhiman Saha keeping him company with 25 (55 balls, 3×4, 1×6).
The Indians had a mighty scare just before tea as Patel struck three quick blows, sending back Shubman Gill on the third ball of the 28th over, Cheteshwar Pujara on the second ball of the 30th over and Virat Kohli on the last ball of the same over.
Agarwal, who suffered a concussion when he was hit by Mohd Siraj in nets in August this year, along with Iyer stemmed the rot and kept the scoreboard moving, punishing the loose balls and playing the good ones with caution. Agarwal, who has scored two double centuries so far, was involved in three half-century partnerships — 80 runs for the first wicket with Shubman Gill (44), 80 with Shreyas Iyer (18) for the fourth wicket and an unbeaten 61-run stand with Wriddhiman Saha (25 not out).
Patel came back to claim Iyer in the final session of the day, revving the ball and extracting good turn and bounce on a track that had a lot to offer bowlers that slowed it down, ending the day with 4/73 off 29 overs, bowling 24 off them unchanged from the Tata End.
Earlier, it looked like India was running away with the Test with Agarwal and Gill in full flow after play started at 12 noon — the delay caused by some wet patches on the ground because of the heavy rains on Wednesday before Patel halted their progress with three quick wickets.
Agarwal and Gill raised 80 runs for the first wicket, negotiating the pacers rather easily as none of the New Zealand bowlers could trouble them initially. Gill was more aggressive of the two as he struck Kylie Jamieson for three fours in the second over of the match. Agarwal started cautiously but later flexed his arms, lofting Patel for the first six of the match. He ended up hitting three more sixes, using his feet to the spinners and lifting them cleanly.
The attacking Gill was the first to go, caught by Ross Taylor off Patel, failing to capitalise on the good start as he was foxed by the flight and turn extracted by the left-armer and hit straight into the hands of Ross Taylor in slips. He had survived a chance on the previous ball when keeper Tom Blundell missed an easy stumping .
Cheteshwar Pujara lasted just five deliveries and was out, playing an uncharacteristic poor shot, soon after surviving a loud lbw shout, caught by Blundell off Patel.
Meanwhile, Virat Kohli’s return to the India Test team lasted only four deliveries but resulted in a big debate as he got out for a duck. Given lbw by umpire Anil Chaudhary off Patel, Kohli reviewed the decision but the TV umpire could not conclusively decide whether the ball hit the bat first or the pad.
The India captain gesticulated rather animatedly, had a chat with umpire Nitin Menon and hit the advertising board with his bat as he walked off the ground. India slumped from 80 for no loss to 80/3 in the space of 16 deliveries, 10 of them bowled by Patel.
Patel, who was born in Mumbai and migrated to New Zealand with his family in 1996 when he was eight, extracted both bounce and turn from the wicket. He bowled a tight line, gave the ball a nice loop and though the Indian batsmen lofted him on a few occasions over the fielders, he kept doing his stuff without losing his nerves.
Earlier, India made three chances in their squad as vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja were all ruled out due to niggles. Kohli, Mohammed Siraj and Jayant yadav came in their place.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson too had to pull out of the match due to an elbow injury and Daryl Mitchell came in for him.