Boxing Day Test: Mayank Agarwal leads India to 57/1 at lunch on day one
Mayank Agarwal held out on the opening morning at the MCG. © AFP

On the friendliest batting track of the series, India’s latest – and makeshift – opening pair of Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari blunted the new ball, batted out an hour and 20 minutes – 18.5 overs, exactly – and gave the visiting team a solid start after Virat Kohli won a great toss.

Vihari, in his third Test and having opened just three times in first-class cricket, made eight off 66 balls in an opening stand of 40 in 18.5 overs – the longest any India opening pair has batted in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries since July 2011. By lunch on day one of the Boxing Day Test the debutant Agarwal had reached 34 from 68 deliveries and India were 57/1. (LIVE SCORECARD: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, MCG TEST)

After just seven overs, Tim Paine tossed the ball to Nathan Lyon. Such was the nature of the MCG surface. Mitchell Starc (4-1-11-0) and Josh Hazlewood (5-2-8-0) bowled in the right channels and beat the bat a few times, but never looked like separating India’s openers on a benign track.

Crease occupation was the need of the day and that is what Agarwal and Vihari did. Agarwal was positive, using his feet well and playing Lyon with a straight bat. Agarwal got off the mark fourth ball with a push into the covers for three off Hazlewood, then clipped him for three off the toes. His first boundary in Test cricket came via an outside edge off Starc past gully, but the sight of Lyon settled him. In the offspinner’s first over, he slapped a drive into the covers. Later, Lyon floated it wider and Agarwal cracked another four with the panache of Virat Kohli. (LIVE UPDATES: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, MCG TEST)

Pushed into an unfamiliar and difficult task, albeit on a good batting deck, Vihari was more tentative, playing and missing at Starc early on. His first run came off his 25th ball faced, a punch down the ground for a sharp call for one. He felt for several balls outside off stump, and was clearly playing out an unfamiliar role.

Pat Cummins entered the attack and pinged a short ball into Vihari’s helmet, which necessitated a visit from India’s physio. Then Agarwal wore one on the back, just losing sight of a lifter from Cummins.

The short ball did for Vihari in the end. Unable to get out of the way of a superbly directed bouncer from Cummins, he gloved the ball for a simple catch at second slip. Sixty-six balls for eight runs. Far from pretty, but in lasting that long Vihari gave India a handy platform. Unlike his senior partner, Agarwal didn’t chuck away a start.

Lunch: India 57/1 vs Australia