Australia snared the crucial wicket of India's Mayank Agarwal on the stroke of tea to offer a glimmer of hope in the third Test on a docile, batsman-friendly Melbourne wicket on Wednesday.
India came into the clash with a new pair of 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 the exciting Agarwal rose to the challenge after Kohli won an important toss and opted to bat on a pitch that is expected to deteriorate as the match wears on.
He stroked 76 and was looking impregnable before Pat Cummins had him caught behind by Tim Paine as he gloved the last ball before the break down the legside.
India ground their way to 123 for two at tea with the patient Cheteshwar Pujara unbeaten on 33.
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 in fine form in domestic Indian cricket, scored his first Test runs with a three through the covers off Josh Hazlewood and he had plundered 17 before the more cagey Hanuma Vihari, promoted to open from number six in Perth, troubled the scorers.
Agarwal's impressive maiden innings saw adulation coming from various quarters, acknowledging the dazzling debut at the MCG against Australia. Here's how Twitter reacted to the youngster's impressive start to Test career.
Batted like he belongs
Wonderfully played by Mayank Agarwal. Has shown no nerves and the mountain of runs he has scored seems to have stood him in good stead. Has batted so far like he belongs
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) December 26, 2018
What's the fuss aye? Rahul? Vijay?
what was all this fuss about test cricket? - mayank agarwal #AUSvIND
— Gaurav Kalra (@gauravkalra75) December 26, 2018
Agarwal might have missed not have got his '100', but he still passes with flying colours
Trial by fire and debutant Mayank Agarwal passes it with flying colours with a fine half century. Bravo!
— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) December 26, 2018
The way Agarwal dealt with Lyon – leading wicket-taker in the ongoing series so far – is extremely impressive
Agarwal has played Lyon superbly. As this graphic shows, he's put away the fuller, wider, deliveries, but he's also attacked Lyon's stock ball, not letting him settle. The upshot is that he's played just 4% false shots against Lyon, whilst still scoring at 3.5rpo. #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/30OTkIL8WZ
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) December 26, 2018
The hard yards, the sweat and the perseverance of playing in Domestic cricket finally pays rich rewards to Agarwal
— North Stand Gang - Wankhede (@NorthStandGang) December 26, 2018
Expect long queues of bat sponsors lined to sign Mayank Agarwal after a brilliant debut innings
Sponsor-less bat. Special feels
— Sidvee (@sidvee) December 26, 2018
A point that the selectors can note, and a point that gives Ranji players a hope
Mayank Agarwal is doing a huge favour to all those Ranji dwellers who have been putting incredible domestic numbers year in and year out and still been ignored. Hope this opens the selectors and team leaderships eyes. #AUSvIND #RanjiTrophy #MayankAgarwal
— Arjun Nayar (@arjunayarr) December 26, 2018
When you have waited so long for your break, nothing really matters
.@mayankcricket well played.
Quality attack, imposing arena, makeshift partner, series in the balance, flown in from home, nothing mattered.
— Abhishek Mukherjee (@ovshake42) December 26, 2018
Agarwal's astronomical figures in domestic cricket
Mayank Agarwal across three formats since last season
FC - 1918 runs, ave 71.03, 6 100s, 7 50s
List A - 1747 runs, ave 58.23, 7 100s, 6 50s
T20s - 378 runs, ave 19.89, 3 50s
Total: 4043 runs, ave 53.19, 13 100s, 16 50s#AusvInd#AusvsInd
— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) December 26, 2018
With inputs from AFP