Ashes 2013: Australia youngster Ashton Agar leaves England stunned
Ashes 2013: Australia's Ashes debutant Ashton Agar, 19, stole the headlines on day two of the first Test at Trent Bridge
All but one batsman had batted in the opening four sessions of the 2013 Ashes series, when 19-year-old debutant Ashton Agar strode out for his turn.
Not many knew what to expect of the little known left-hander, who had just 16 first-class innings to his name before Thursday.
England had been dismissed for a dismal 215 having chosen to bat; Australia had learnt little from the hosts’ efforts and were in danger of being cut adrift completely from the match, on 117-9.
But the gangly southpaw Agar, born in Melbourne but of Sri Lankan heritage, showed he wasn’t just at Trent Bridge to make up the numbers, nor was he going to throw his wicket away quite like his peers.
Agar enchanted the 17,000 capacity crowd by pummelling England’s attack to all parts as he hit 98 – the highest score ever by number 11 batsman in Test cricket.
He had clearly been slotted in at ‘jack’ because of his age – the occasion too may have played a part – but his talent belied his lowly position. He should never bat there again.
He struck 12 fours and two imperious sixes off Swann, which the off-spinner didn’t even bother to watch sail over the long-off rope.
Like any player plying their trade at the WACA, he was particularly dismissive off the back foot; watching the ball right on to the bat he was able to lacerate anything short. Steven Finn notably suffered at the hands of the apparent novice.
His knock was vital to his team’s chances in this match. Agar along with his ‘senior’ partner Philip Hughes shared a tenth wicket stand of 163 to lift the tourists to 280 – a lead of 65 over England.
If Australia coach Darren Lehmann is worth his salt at all, young Agar will at least come in at 8 – where he bats for his state side back Down Under – in the second innings.
Hughes deserves praise for his role in the carnage too. He rotated the strike and was quick to realise that he was to support Agar and at all costs and not to throw his wicket away.
Hughes has often struggled against the Old Enemy but he will have taken great confidence from today. The pressure was off and he and Agar showed that with the necessary application, you can succeed against any bowler in the world.
Long gone was Hughes’ poor footwork that often made him the laughing stock of the Aussie batting line-up in previous series, where he often became a walking wicket.
He scored an unbeaten 81 and on today’s showing could prove a thorn in England’s side with the alterations he had made to his technique.
But the day was all about young Agar. His innings has left England with a lot of work to do to get back ahead in this topsy-turvy match on day three.