Mayank Agarwal has fond memories of the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, the venue for the second Test between India and South Africa. In the last game he played at the ground, Mayank scored 304* in a Ranji Trophy match against Maharashtra. That knock came in November 2017 and it kickstarted a month wherein he went on to score a 1,000 runs.
On Thursday, he followed it up with a stroke-filled 108 from 195 balls, recording his second consecutive three-figure score, following his 215 in the first Test against the Proteas.
"Very happy that I could get back-to-back hundreds. That's a good feeling," Agarwal said. "The team is in a good position, winning the toss, batting first and with one batsman short, it's a good thing to make runs.”
India skipper, Virat Kohli won the toss and opted to bat first. His openers vindicated his decision as they saw off a tough opening period before Rohit Sharma was dismissed by a Kagiso Rabada beauty.
However, the Kings XI Punjab star was unperturbed, playing some delightful shots as he consolidated the innings along with Cheteshwar Pujara as the pair put on 138 for the second wicket.
Agarwal brought up his fifty in 112 balls with a glorious punch through the off-side off Keshav Maharaj and in just his sixth Test, the 28-year-old showed no symptoms of being stuck in the 90s, too.
"He (Mayank) is an experienced player who has scored a lot of runs in First Class cricket, which has helped him a lot," Pujara observed. "When it comes to the nervous 90s, he is someone who is fearless.
"Mayank knows how to convert fifties into big scores. Once he goes past hundred, he can score heavily as we saw in the last game," he added. "The habit (of scoring big) has come from First Class cricket, so I didn't have to tell him much. To be honest, we were just communicating what their gameplan was."
It showed. When on 87, he hit consecutive sixes off Maharaj to swiftly move to 99 and then cut Vernon Philander past short third man to bring up a well-deserved century, with skipper Kohli on the other end giving a big hug to congratulate him.
"There were periods when runs weren't coming easily. They bowled good, tight spells and didn't let us score," acknowledged Agarwal. "There was some moisture in the wicket and Philander and Rabada bowled tight lines. We knew we would get beaten, so we needed to play tight, play the straight lines and wait for the bad balls."
He was eventually dismissed by Rabada soon after his century, with opposing captain Faf du Plessis latching on to his edge at first slip. However, he had done his job with aplomb with India eventually ending the day at 273/3 when bad light ended play a bit early.