Daijiworld Media Network
Nottingham (U.K), Jul 12 : Welcome one and all for the pivotal third day's play of the first Test. Yeterday belonged to Ashton Agar and his exploits with the bat have already made this Test match memorable. England survived a scare early on from Mitchell Starc but since then Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook have weathered the early storm and taken England ahead. Australia will have to take quick wickets and stifle England's progress. On a pitch that is already offering a lot of turn, anything over 250-300 in the fourth innings will be a difficult chase.
Day 2 highlights:
Good fightback from England in the final session. The two batsmen have been very watchful and rarely played a bad shot as they erased the deficit. The bowling was very disciplined from the Aussies as they gave nothing away. The match is very well poised at the moment and one feels that tomorrow's first session will be the most crucial one in this test.
Agar lands telling blow
Nottingham (U.K), July 11 (AFP): Debutante's late surge helps Aussies take lead; England fight back
Australia coach Darren Lehmann forecast "outstanding" teenage sensation Ashton Agar would come into the game "more and more" after the left-arm spinner was handed a shock Test debut in the Ashes opener at Trent Bridge.
Agar, a 19-year-old Western Australia left-arm spinner, was only brought to England originally as a "development player" for the first two Ashes Tests.
But in a dramatic move involving Australia chairman of selectors John Inverarity, on tour selector and wicketkeeping great Rodney Marsh and Lehmann himself, Agar was preferred Wednesday instead of off-spinner Nathan Lyon, a veteran of 22 Tests.
The stunning selection did not leak from the tourists' camp until fast bowling great Glenn McGrath was seen handing Agar his 'Baggy Green' cap, in a traditional presentation ceremony for Australia players making a Test debut, shortly before Wednesday's toss.
"The boys were good, they knew two days ago so we just had to see if they could keep it quiet and they did," Lehmann, appointed only just over a fortnight before this match after South African Mickey Arthur was sacked as Australia coach, said.
"For a 19-year-old kid, it's great," added Lehmann, a former Australia batsman. "He's excited and you saw him when Glenn McGrath presented him with his cap, he had a tear in his eye and it's a big moment for him."
Just as England believe off-spinner Graeme Swann can play a key role against Australia because his stock ball turns away from left-handed batsmen, of whom there are several in the tourists' line-up, so the fact England's top-order is mainly made up of right-handers helped boost Agar's case.
"We went for a left-arm spinner to take it away from all their right-handers," explained Lehmann after a day where Agar sent down seven wicketless overs, albeit for just 24 runs, in overcast conditions ideal for seam rather than spin bowling.
"He was nervous today (Wednesday) -- you'd expect that on the first day of an Ashes series. As the wicket wares, he'll come into the game more and more," Lehmann insisted.
Melbourne-born Agar came to prominence during the last Australian season by taking 31 first-class wickets at a shade under 30 apiece in his debut Sheffield Shield campaign for Western Australia.
Lehmann, then coach of Queensland, was impressed. "I've seen him bowl a lot last year in Shield cricket and I think he's an outstanding prospect. He knows he has a lot of work to do and that's OK. We were happy to take the chance with him with all their right handers. He gets it in the right area and he can bowl."
For the 25-year-old Lyon, who ever since the squad was announced has had to cope with suggestions that Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed, recently granted Australian citizenship, might jump ahead of him in the queue for an Ashes place, Agar's selection must surely have been a shattering blow.
However, Lehmann said: "He's been outstanding, the way he took it, and he's going to play a part in this Ashes series as well, there's no doubt about that."
Debutant Agar scores 98 at No 11 position
Never in the history of Test cricket had a No 11 batsman made a hundred. Ashton Agar, a 19-year-old from Melbourne, had a chance to script that remarkable piece of history on Thursday against England in the first Ashes Test here. But he fell just two runs short.
A miscued pull off Stuart Broad was grabbed by Graeme Swann in the deep to snap his innings at 98, an innings that changed the complexion of the game. His knock was the highest by a No 11 batsman, going past the 95 made by Tino Best against England at Edgbaston last year.
Agar, perhaps, wouldn’t have minded one bit missing the chance to create history because he was not even included in the initial Ashes squad of Australia.
But his fortunes changed dramatically along with the appointment of Darren Lehmann as the Australian coach in place of Mickey Arthur. The former Australian batsman was impressed by the natural talent of Agar, and recommended an upgrade for him to the Ashes squad despite the left-hander playing just 10 first-class matches for Western Australia.
Agar vindicated the faith shown in him by Lehmann in stunning fashion. Before Agar’s arrival at the crease on the day, England were going swimmingly — reducing Australia to 117 for nine after notching up 215 in their first innings. With James Anderson and Swann bowling well, it seemed just a matter of few balls before Australia folded up.
But Agar in the company of Phil Hughes added 163 runs for the 10th wicket to lift Australia. It was also the highest partnership for the last wicket surpassing the 151 held jointly by Brian Hastings/Richard Collinge of New Zealand and Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed of Pakistan.
The most striking feature of Agar’s innings was the way he handled the off-spin of Swann. Here, perhaps, his Sri Lankan lineage might have come into play. Agar is the grandson of Nala Hewawissa, who played cricket for Dharmarajah College, Kandy, and Sheilagh Hewawissa.
When he was handed the Baggy Green by Glenn McGrath on Wednesday, many might have asked ‘Ashton Who’? But on this day he ensured that his name would be on everybody’s lips.