MELBOURNE, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Australia fast bowler Pat Cummins struck to remove opening batsman Hanuma Vihari but India pushed to 57 for one at lunch on day one of the third test on Wednesday as the toothless Melbourne Cricket Ground pitch quickly came under scrutiny.
India captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first after surveying a green-tinged pitch he felt would slow throughout the match.
Debutant opener Mayank Agarwal was 34 not out at the break, with number three Chesteshwar Pujara on 10 under a cloudless sky.
Kohli’s new opening pair enjoyed a solid start until Cummins intervened with a rearing short ball that pinged off Vihari’s glove and was caught by Aaron Finch who jogged over from second slip to have the batsman out for eight off 66 balls.
That was the sole highlight in a frustrating session for Australia, whose bowlers garnered little movement off the docile drop-in wicket that was ranked “poor” by the International Cricket Council after producing a dull, batsmen-dominated draw during the Ashes series last year.
The four-test series is evenly poised at 1-1 after Australia’s victory in the second contest in Perth. India won the opener in Adelaide.
The MCG’s new curator Matt Page promised the wicket would have “plenty” in it after last year’s pitch proved an embarrassment for Cricket Australia.
But after only seven benign overs by the fast bowlers, Australia captain Tim Paine introduced spinner Nathan Lyon to try to make something happen.
Bangalore-born 27-year-old Agarwal enjoyed a composed debut, showcasing an array of classy strokes and three fours in his 68-ball innings to the break.
With Ravichandran Ashwin unfit, India selected spinner Ravindra Jadeja while reinstating the fit-again Rohit Sharma at six in the batting order rather than rushing seam-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya back into the lineup.
Australia replaced out-of-form middle order batsman Peter Handscomb with all-rounder Mitchell Marsh. (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)