Australia wakes up to a new hero: Amazing Agar

Published July 12, 2013
Two days ago, Ashton Agar was relatively unknown beyond his hometown. -Photo by AFP
Two days ago, Ashton Agar was relatively unknown beyond his hometown. -Photo by AFP

BRISBANE: The name “Agar” was trending on Twitter. Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan admitted even he was cheering for an Aussie. And one respected India-based commentator said it helped him fall in love with cricket all over again.

Yes, 19-year-old Ashton Agar's defiant 98 in his Test debut brought out all the superlatives, nearly matching the long list of records he set in the first Ashes test on Thursday.

The clock was ticking toward midnight, minutes from a new day Friday on Australia's east coast, when Agar fell two runs short of a century.

No matter. The youngster was immediately hailed a hero, featured as the lead item on all breakfast television programs in a country where all-encompassing sporting accomplishments lately have been as rare as rain in the Outback.

There was no question Agar saved the day for Australia at Trent Bridge in Nottingham. Agar made the highest score by a No. 11 batsman in a record last-wicket stand of 163 with Phillip Hughes (81 not out) as Australia recovered from 117-9 to 280 all out for a first-innings lead of 65. England ended the second day at 80-2 for a lead of 15 runs.

The previous best for a No. 11 batsman in test cricket, which dates back to 1877, was Tino Best's 95 for the West Indies _ also against England last year.

“I'm feeling your pain lad ... records are to be broken,” Best tweeted.

“Must say we number 11 batters, in Agar and myself, love this English bowling attack.”

The once all-powerful Australian cricket test has been struggling recently, losing a Test series 4-0 in India, failing badly in its Champions Trophy title defense in England and being mired in a string of off-field problems leading into the Ashes. There's been a replacement in the coaching ranks, with former Test batsman Darren Lehmann supplanting South Africa's Mickey Arthur just weeks before the Ashes.

English pundits have been tipping a 5-0 series win over Australia, and the batting collapse in the first innings in Nottingham was not the kind of start the visitors needed.

But one fresh face quickly turned around the flood of negativity.

Agar, with his parents John and Sonia cheering from the stands, had barely walked _ smiling all the way _ to the pavilion before other plaudits began pouring in.

Vaughan, the former opening batsman who captained England in 51 Tests over a five-year period, got caught up in Agar's incredible batting performance.

“Never ever thought I would say I am disappointed a Aussie got out but I really wanted Ashton Agar to get a 100... (hash)Ashes,” Vaughan tweeted.

Minutes later, respected Indian commentator Harsha Bhogle, who regularly appears on international television and radio broadcasts, said he was moved by Agar's exploits.

“You think you have seen it all and then there comes a moment so fresh, so touching that you fall in love with cricket all over again,” Bhogle tweeted.

Two days ago, Agar was relatively unknown beyond his hometown when he was called into the first Ashes Test from outside the touring squad. Now he's a household name in Australia _ mothers doing the morning school run laughed as they talked about the new teenage star they'd stayed up late to watch on TV the previous night.

The Australian media, searching for some glimmer of sporting satisfaction, was quick to jump on the Agar bandwagon.

It's been a lean sports year Down Under. A week ago, the Wallabies' were thrashed by the British and Irish Lions in the third and deciding rugby test to surrender the series. There have also been doping scandals and off-field incidents enveloping its rugby league and Australian Rules codes.

Left-arm spin bowler Agar was a surprise selection for the first test, a fact not lost on Fairfax Media columnist Malcolm Knox.

“Sunshine lit up Trent Bridge on Thursday, intensifying both the colors and the shadows,” wrote Knox. “Agar's batting, like his selection in the first place, was so unexpected it stole the show.”

The Daily Telegraph in Sydney headlined “Agar's Ashes debut for the ages” while a columnist for The Age, under the headline “An innings beyond imagination,” wrote: “Michael Clarke must have exhorted his team to watch Ashton Agar play an innings that surely no one will see again.”

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd weighed in.

“What a stunning, gutsy, agonising 98 from Ashton Agar in the Ashes Test. Full marks to Hughes. Well done guys.” Rudd tweeted.

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