Agarwal ton anchors India innings as Kohli falls for a duck

By Sports Desk December 03, 2021

Mayank Agarwal held India's innings together with a terrific century on day one of the second Test against New Zealand, as Virat Kohli's return to the team saw the captain dismissed for a duck.

India posted 221-4 in Mumbai, with Agarwal 120 not out at stumps after a valiant effort at the top of the order.

All the wickets went to New Zealand's left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, who at one point reduced India from 80-0 to 80-3 when he removed Shubman Gill for 44 and added the wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli in quick succession.

Kohli had spoken on Thursday of being determined to go the "hard yards" where necessary for India's sake, having missed the recent T20I series and the first Test in order to take a breather.

Ajaz had Gill caught by Ross Taylor at slip before bowling Pujara with a heavily turning delivery and getting an lbw verdict to dismiss Kohli, who was not reprieved by a review with no sign of an inside edge.

Partners came and went, but Agarwal - who kept his place in the team while Ajinkya Rahane missed out through injury - ploughed on, making a case to stay in the side for India's next assignments, although Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul may have something to say about that. Rohit has been rested for this series, which Rahul has missed due to injury.

Shreyas Iyer, who had a century and a fifty in the first Test, fell for 18 this time around to end an 80-run partnership for the fourth wicket, and Agarwal and Wriddhiman Saha (25no) put on 61 to guide India through to the close with no further casualties, leaving the deciding match of a two-game series finely poised.


Agarwal earns his place

A cover drive off Daryl Mitchell took Agarwal into three figures, his fourth Test century. He then spanked Ajaz for six from the penultimate ball of the evening to cap an impressive day's effort. Agarwal has converted two of his previous tons into doubles, against South Africa and Bangladesh, and will hope to do the same here, having revealed some words of advice from coach Rahul Dravid.

"He had told me, 'When you get set, make it big'," Agarwal said. "I am happy to have capitalised on the start that I had. But that message was very clear from Rahul, that I should make it count.

"This innings was more about grit and determination, just to stick with the plan and be disciplined. I know I didn't look good sometimes, but I got the job done. Getting runs in this format, the hardest format of the game, is the most satisfying feeling."

Special day for Ajaz

Four wickets anywhere is good going for a bowler, but for Ajaz this doubtless felt particularly special. He was born in Mumbai and emigrated with his family to New Zealand in 1996, going on to make his Test debut in 2018. Now 33 years old, he put India in a spin and will be chasing a third Test five-wicket haul on Saturday.

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