Playing his 32nd first-class match, Mayank Agarwal, 26, smacked an unbeaten 304. © Getty Images

Playing his 32nd first-class match, Mayank Agarwal, 26, smacked an unbeaten 304. © Getty Images

Having registered a pair in Karnataka’s last Group A fixture against Hyderabad in Shimoga in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, Mayank Agarwal would have been looking to make amends when he arrived in Pune to take on Maharashtra. Agarwal, not only turned his form around, but did it some style as he became the third batsman from his state after KL Rahul and Karun Nair to score a triple century in the tournament.

Playing his 32nd first-class match, Agarwal, 26, smacked an unbeaten 304 at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Friday (November 3) to guide Karnataka to a massive total of 628 for 5. This was the third triple-ton in the ongoing season. Prashant Chopra hit 338 for Himachal Pradesh against Punjab while Hanuma Vihari scored 302* for Andhra Pradesh against Odisha.

Known for his powerful stroke-play at the domestic level, Agarwal was more patient this time around, taking 494 deliveries to get there. The knock featured 28 fours and four sixes. He said it was important for him to repay the faith shown by selectors and R Vinay Kumar, the Karnataka captain, after his poor outing against Hyderabad.

“I am really happy and satisfied with the fact that I got a triple ton,” Agarwal told Wisden India. “It’s a really good feeling to be able to play such a knock. Despite registering a pair in my last game, I felt good that the selectors and captain still backed me. It came as a morale booster. My approach to this knock was no different, it’s just that I wanted to bat long and score big.”

In the process, Agarwal was also involved in two big partnerships with R Samarth and Nair. He first put on 259 runs for the opening wicket with Samarth, who himself scored a brilliant 129, before going on to share a 270-run stand with Nair (116) for the third wicket. The partnerships helped Karnataka to take a huge 383-run lead and dictate terms against Maharashtra.

“Both the partnerships were very well paced,” said Agarwal. “Karun got a hundred in his last game (134 v Hyderabad) and played brilliantly in this one as well. It was really good that we managed to pull off two big partnerships that helped us post a big total on the board.”

Agarwal was also a part of India A’s squad for the first three games, and the team clinched the five-match one-day series against New Zealand A 3-0 with one game being washed out and the other one tied. While Agarwal only made eight and 13 in the two games he played, he felt that the experience of playing at that level helped him work on his shortcomings.

“Playing at a higher level, it gives you confidence and an idea about where you stand and what you need to improve,” he revealed. “That was a good learning experience for me. Now this season is as important for me as any other season. I don’t take any season lightly. You got to go out there and perform at your best.”

Despite being on the receiving end, Ankit Bawne, the Maharashtra captain, gave credit where it was due. “He batted really well and targeted the bowlers brilliantly,” he pointed out. “He just played out the pacers during their initial spell and once the spinners came, he took them on. He planned his innings to perfection. All of the Karnataka batsmen batted with a particular plan and valued their wicket. The credit must go to them.”

"Rahul Tripathi is someone who takes on the bowlers from the word go" - Ankit Bawne. © BCCI

“Rahul Tripathi is someone who takes on the bowlers from the word go” – Ankit Bawne. © BCCI

Maharashtra were bundled out for just 245 in their first innings with Rahul Tripathi being the only noteworthy contributor. Tripathi, who rose to fame after having a stellar Indian Premier League season with Rising Pune Supergiant this year, smoked a 114-ball 120 to take his side to a respectable total.

“Rahul is someone who takes on the bowlers from the word go,” praised Bawne. “He doesn’t really care if they are fast bowlers or spinners. The confidence he has right now, you can see it in his batting. He seems to have gone in that prime zone.”

Facing a huge deficit of 383 runs in their second innings, Maharashtra slumped to 84 for 4 before Tripathi and Ruturaj Gaikwad came to the rescue. Still trailing by 283, Bawne came down hard on all the top-order batsmen but remained hopeful of saving the match.

“I think the second innings especially was very disappointing,” he conceded. “We didn’t bat properly as per the plan that we had decided. When we were batting first, the ball was doing a bit so I can understand that, but we should have done well this time.

“Rahul (33 n.o.) and Ruturaj (61 n.o.) are batting now and both are really good. We have Chirag Khurana and Rohit Motwani to come. Once the batsman manages to get set, it’s not that hard to play the overs. Hopefully, if Rahul and Ruturaj can stick around for 40-45 overs tomorrow, we can bat out the entire 90 overs.”