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Agarwal leads India fightback with century after Patel’s strikes


Mayank Agarwal jumped up, waved his bat and looked at the sky after he slammed his fourth Test century and helped India fight back, in the second Test against New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday, virtually on his own.

At a time when Black Capsโ€™ left-armer Ajaz Patel spun a web around Indiaโ€™s batting unit claiming four wickets, Agarwal kept his cool and ensured that the home team ended the first day at 221-4. He remained unbeaten on 120, along with Wriddhiman Saha (25, 53b).

AS IT HAPPENED

It was perhaps one of the most challenging innings of his career where he not only had to convert a start into a big score, but also ensure that the team reached a comfortable stage, despite Patel wrecking havoc.

After the first session was wiped out due to a wet outfield, India opted to bat and the opening pair of Agarwal and Shubman Gill (44; 71b, 7×4, 1×6) added 80 runs before Patel sent Gill packing.ย ย 

From a comfortable position at 80-1 in 27.3 overs, India suddenly found itself reeling at 80-3 in 29.3 overs, with the Mumbai-born Patel dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara (0) and Virat Kohli (0) in quick succession.

While Pujaraโ€™s poor form continued as Patel rattled his stumps, Kohli – who returned to action after a short break – too returned without opening his account, much to the disappointment of a few hundred spectators, who were present at the iconic stadium.

New Zealand’s Ajaz Patel starred with four wickets in the day. ย  – ย PTI

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Lasting only four balls, Kohli was trapped leg before. Even though the India captain asked for a review, the third umpire Virender Sharma upheld the decision after several replays. While television replays were inconclusive whether the ball hit the bat first or pad and as per rule, the third umpire went ahead with his on-field colleagueโ€™s decision.

A visibly upset Kohli had to walk back to the pavilion.

With three top batters back in the dressing room, India was struggling at 111-3 at tea, when Agarwal stepped up and stitched a 80-run stand with Shreyas Iyer (18, 41b) to help India bounce back.

While Mayank tried to counter-attack the New Zealand bowlers, with some stylish drives, Iyer – who had a dream debut in the first Test in Kanpur – gave him company at the other end, to ensure there was no slip-up. Just when it looked India was slowly returning into the game, Patel struck again and dismissed Iyer.

Things could have gone haywire thereon had Agarwal not stayed firm and stitched a crucial 61-run stand with Wriddhiman Saha, who scored an incredible half-century in the second innings of the first Test in Kanpur despite a stiff neck. Saha took time to settle down and ensured that he provided full support to Agarwal at the other end.

With the two playing responsibly, New Zealand bowlers failed to dent further and Agarwal brought up yet another Test century – after two years – with a gorgeous cover drive off Daryl Mitchell.

After a sensational start to international career, the last couple of years were challenging for Agarwal as he failed to cement his place in the team and looked off colour. But playing under extreme pressure, he once again proved why he is rated so highly. His flawless knock not only helped India bounce back, but also silenced critics.

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