India came into the clash with a pair of new and inexperienced openers after the misfiring Murali Vijay and KL Rahul were axed, suggesting a hint of panic as Virat Kohli‘s men look to win their first ever series in Australia.
But Agarwal rose to the challenge after Kohli won the toss and chose to bat on a pitch that is expected to deteriorate as the match wears on.
At lunch, India were 57 for one with Agarwal not out 34 and the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara unbeaten on 10.
The four-Test series is tied 1-1 after India won the opening clash in Adelaide by 31 runs and Australia drew level with a 146-run victory in Perth, making Melbourne a crunch encounter.
Agarwal, who has been on fire in domestic Indian cricket, got his first runs in the Test cauldron off Josh Hazlewood with a three through the covers and he plundered 17 before the more cagey Vihari got off the mark.
After two lively pitches in Adelaide and Perth produced results, the track prepared for the Melbourne Cricket Ground was offering little early on for Australia’s pace attack.
Skipper Tim Paine brought on spinner Nathan Lyon in the seventh over to see if he could produce a breakthrough, but it was Cummins who worked some magic.
Vihari had already taken a nasty blow on the helmet from Cummins in the 12th over, with the physio needed to check he was okay.
The right-hander continued but when he tried to avoid another Cummins bouncer the ball pinged off his glove. Aaron Finch took an easy catch in the slips and he was gone for eight.
All-rounder Mitch Marsh was then brought into the attack to see if he could unsettle Agarwal only to be met with boos from a section of the crowd, having been recalled in place of local boy Peter Handscomb.
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