Wednesday 21 February 2018

Cricket: Teenager Agar steals the show as records tumble

Derek Pringle

We live in an age of wonders but when a teenager plucked from relative obscurity scores 98 on his Ashes debut batting at No 11, as Ashton Agar did against England at Trent Bridge, our disbelief enters new realms.

Agar (19) and with 10 first-class games experience before his Test debut here, shocked the cricket world on Wednesday when Australia selected him as their spinner. But if that was not surprise enough, he announced himself afresh with a world record in his maiden Test innings, his 98 the highest score by a No 11.

His innings was not without controversy, from Alastair Cook's timid captaincy during its construction, to the stumping England felt they had off Graeme Swann, but which TV umpire Marais Erasmus failed to grant when Agar was on six. It was a game-changing moment and Matt Prior was so convinced that he demanded a second look after England had finished fielding. But with one camera angle suggesting Agar's foot was still lifted, but another making it appear grounded, it was perhaps understandable why Erasmus gave the left-hander the benefit of the doubt.

Less clear is why Jonathan Trott was not afforded the same when Australia reviewed an lbw shout from Mitchell Starc, when visual evidence suggested the ball had hit an inside edge.

The protocol for referred decisions is that there must be strong TV evidence to overturn the umpire's original decision, which in Trott's case was a not-out from Aleem Dar. What Erasmus did, when Michael Clarke called for the review, was the opposite, ignoring the visual snippet that supported Dar's original call. He was probably hoping to rely on Hotspot to provide the detail, but that was not available as it was still processing Joe Root's dismissal, following his caught behind the previous ball.

If those setbacks caused widespread ire among England's fans, only ardent jingoists could claim not to have been disappointed for Agar when he fell two runs short, hooking Stuart Broad's bouncer to Swann at deep mid-wicket. .

His 163-run partnership for the last wicket with Phillip Hughes, who made a fine unbeaten 81, smashed other records, including the highest last wicket partnership which previously stood at 151.

It was also only the third time in Test history that the last wicket has more than doubled the team's score, Australia recovering from an ignominious 117-9 to 280, a lead of 65.

In a low-scoring game that can be a decisive advantage, though with batting conditions having eased, Cook and Kevin Pietersen managed to stop Australia's rampaging momentum to enable England to end the day on 80-2, a lead of 15 runs.

Both men were made to battle hard as Australia's bowlers settled for discipline over the destruction that threatened when Starc found himself on his second hat-trick opportunity of the match after dismissing Root and Trott in successive balls.

It was a stutter but nothing compared to Australia's collapse after they lurched from a healthy 108-4, largely thanks to to Steve Smith's 53, to 117-9. Anderson took three wickets in 13 balls, including Smith's, while Swann snared Brad Haddin and James Pattinson. Then in walked Agar and the rest was cricket history. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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