India vs Bangladesh: Mayank Agarwal makes Indore double impact
A short-arm pull to the mid-wicket boundary off Bangladesh off-spinner Taijul Islam took Mayank Agarwal past 150. He raised his bat to the stands and then pointed it to the applauding dressing room. Skipper Virat Kohli gestured at him to continue, make it count and score a double. Agarwal gave him the thumbs up. Less than an hour later, Agarwal was celebrating his double century, his second in five Test innings. He looked at where Kohli was seated and flashed a ‘V’. He had kept his promise.
And he had done it in style—pretty much like Virender Sehwag, the batsman he idolises—with a towering six over long-on. Agarwal scored 243 off 330 balls with 28 fours and eight sixes, equaling Navjyot Sidhu’s long-standing record of most sixes by an Indian in a Test innings. “It feels good when you know that your skipper is backing you more than you are backing yourself,” Agarwal said.
At the end of Day 2 of the opening Test at the Holkar Stadium here on Friday, Bangladesh trail Mayank Agarwal by 93 runs. And if India declared straightaway, the visitors would have to score 344 runs to make them bat again. A bleak picture of Bangladesh’s readiness to compete against top teams in the World Test Championship that had emerged at the end of Day 1 now looks grim.
Agarwal’s first double century was also his maiden Test ton, against South Africa in Visakhapatnam last month. In between, he had hit a century against the Proteas in Pune. Following India’s whitewash of South Africa, Agarwal played the Duleep Trophy for India C and hit a hundred there as well. He is now the second highest scorer in Tests in 2019 after Steve Smith’s 774 in four Tests, at an average of 110.5. Agarwal has 740 in seven matches at an average of 74 and stands a chance to go past Smith in Kolkata. In eight Tests now since his debut 76 against Australia in Melbourne last year, Agarwal has 771 runs with three fifties and three hundreds at an average of 70.09.
There were uncanny similarities between Agarwal’s two double centuries. The cover and extra-cover drives off balls pitched up gave a sense of déjà vu. The plan was similar in the way he attacked deliveries outside off. In both cases, it forced the pacers to change their outside the off stump line and bowl at him. Immediately, he would open up the on-side with pulls and flicks, risk-free shots he can hit even in his sleep. Abu Jayed, Bangladesh’s most successful bowler in this Test so far, got pretty much the treatment Veron Philander got in Visakhapatnam.
Jayed was consistently bringing the ball into the right-handers from outside the off-stump. Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s other overnight batsman, started slashing and was successful initially when successive deliveries ended up at the third-man boundary. The resultant adjustment from Jayed, who then started to swing the ball in from around off-stump, quickly raced to the long-on and mid-wicket boundaries. But Pujara, who looked focused on a big one, perished trying the slash once too many. His 54 came off 72 balls and in the morning session when the pacers had some assistance from the wicket, Pujara led the counter-attack.
Kohli had hit a double the last time the hosts played a Test here, against New Zealand three years back. This time, he departed without scoring but Ajinkya Rahane and Agarwal did not let India feel the pinch. A 193-run stand for the fourth wicket put India in command. The two consolidated initially and then Agarwal took charge. Bangladesh had to bring in spinners from both ends as neither Jayed nor Ebadat Hossain could get the softer ball to do much.
Against spinners, Agarwal waited for balls pitched outside off and cut them fine to the third-man boundary. In Visakhapatnam, Agarwal was prompt in deploying the sweep against South African spinners, even using the reverse-sweep quite often. On Friday, Agarwal tried the sweep just once. Mehidy Hasan Miraz sent in one that drifted on to the pads. Agarwal initially tried to sweep and then chose to paddle. The ball hit him on the pads and umpire Marais Erasmus gave him out. The review, however, showed the ball was missing the leg-stump by a distance. Agarwal was on 82. He did not try the sweep for the rest of his innings. Instead he kept charging out and hit some huge sixes over long-on and mid-wicket.
Agarwal got out while trying to hit a similar six off Miraz right on the mid-wicket rope. He knew he hadn’t fully gotten hold of the ball but went with the shot. This ended a 123-run stand for the fifth wicket between Agarwal and Ravindra Jadeja, who is batting on 60 off 76, with Umesh Yadav at the other end on 25 off 10. Both were in the middle of murdering what was left of the Bangladesh bowling, which did not have much to show for except a four-wicket haul by Jayed.
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