Agar heroics give Australia the edge in Ashes thriller
Australia’s number 11 Ashton Agar made an astonishing record 98 on debut as the tourists seized control of the first Ashes test against England on a wildly fluctuating second day at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
The 19-year-old Agar shared a record last-wicket partnership of 163 with Phil Hughes to give Australia a lead of 65 before England recovered from the loss of two early wickets to reach 80 for two in their second innings at the close.
Alastair Cook, on 37, and Kevin Pietersen, 35, were the not out batsmen and they will resume with England 15 runs ahead after an enthralling start to the series.
England had dominated the first part of the morning session when Australia collapsed to 117 for nine before Agar and Hughes came together.
Agar’s innings was the highest score by a number 11 in tests and Hughes gave him solid support with an unbeaten 81.
“When I walked to the crease I was thinking we were in a little bit of trouble but the wicket was good,” Agar said.
“Phil Hughes told me to take it ball by ball, we just played the moment and forgot about everything else. It was good fun, exciting and I enjoyed it,” he added.
“I have always tried to play freely and naturally and I don’t really get too nervous.”
Steve Smith became the first player to pass fifty in the match and had moved on to 53 when he tried to drive Anderson through extra cover and nicked a catch to wicketkeeper Matt Prior, sparking a flurry of wickets.
Graeme Swann produced a ripping off-break to bowl Brad Haddin for one, Peter Siddle edged Anderson through to Prior and also departed for one while Mitchell Starc went the same way for a duck.
James Pattinson was then trapped lbw by Swann for two and Australia were reeling.
But Agar showed great composure in only his 11th first-class match, driving Swann over long-off for six and pulling Steven Finn for two fours as the last-wicket pair brought up their fifty partnership off only 60 balls.
Agar reached his half century off exactly 50 balls, including one six and seven fours.
He dispatched Swann for another six over long-on and Hughes joined the party after passing his fifty, smashing Stuart Broad for three fours in an over.
England took the extra half hour before lunch but they could not capture the final wicket, Agar and Hughes bringing up their century partnership shortly before the interval.
The pair continued to flay the England attack in the afternoon and Agar, having passed the previous highest score by a number 11 in a test of 95, looked poised to reach his century.
But he heaved Broad into the leg-side and was caught by Swann on the mid-wicket boundary before leaving the field to a standing ovation.
England openers Cook and Joe Root played cautiously in the face of tight Australian bowling and Root, on five, was unlucky to flick Starc through to wicketkeeper Haddin down the leg-side.
Jonathan Trott was then trapped lbw by Starc’s next delivery, sent back to the pavilion following an umpire referral after being initially given not out, and England were tottering on 11 for two at tea.
But Cook and Pietersen dug in during the final session, playing with extreme discipline as they battled to get their team out of a deep hole.
Cook left anything wide of the stumps and Pietersen reined in his natural attacking instincts as the match settled down for the first time in two days.
Pietersen was dropped on 25, a difficult chance to Haddin off Agar, but the tall right-hander struck six fours and the third-wicket partnership had moved on to 69 off 213 balls when the players left the field.
“KP and Cooky showed a lot of class and application to get us through a tricky period,” Anderson said. “We have to bat very very well tomorrow.”