It's Ashton Agar Day as Australia toasts teen star
Ashton Agar was acclaimed a national sporting hero by Australia's press yesterday after the youngster's record-breaking 98 on debut that turned the opening Ashes test against England.
Tagged Australia's unlikely hero, the 19-year-old demoralised the English attack with the highest score by a test number 11 in a potential match-changing 163-run last wicket partnership with Phil Hughes. That had England fighting grimly by second day stumps with a 15-run lead and eight wickets in hand.
Agar's dream debut for Australia continued yesterday when the left-arm spinner captured the prize scalp of England captain Alastair Cook, dismissing him for 50, for his first test wicket in the Ashes opener at Trent Bridge.
Agar aimed the ball leg side across the line of a delivery that landed in the rough and bounced, which was excellently caught by Australia captain Michael Clarke. Agar also removed Jonny Bairstow, leaving him on figures of 2-53.
Peter Siddle then dismissed Matt Prior for 31, leaving Stuart Broad on 1 not out at tea. Ian Bell was 56 not out as England reached 230-6.
Sydney-based tabloid The Daily Telegraph devoted four pages to Agar's heroics, under the banner headline "Our 11th Hour Saviour", while The Australian declared "Agar the capable saves Aussies' batting pride".
Australian pace great and fellow number 11 Glenn McGrath said Agar's innings may have set the tone for the rest of the Ashes for Australia, who went into the five-test series as underdogs.
"That was a big innings for this series. It could have really set the tone for the rest of the series," McGrath said.
"We've shown we have some fight and we're not going to lie down and die. Hopefully the attitude of that young fellow will go through the camp."
Leg spin legend Shane Warne tweeted: "Wow!!!! Congrats to Mr Agar. Well done buddy … Wickets for you now too please."
Even Prime Minister Kevin Rudd got in on the act, calling for Ashton Agar Day.
Newspapers were full of praise for Agar, who was brought to England originally as a "development player" for the first two tests, but may now become an indispensable team member.
"If ever a debut test innings deserved to be capped by a century it was this one by Agar," The Australian's Wayne Smith said.
"No test cricketer has ever reached three figures batting at No11 and there's a very good reason why not. Not only can the last man in not afford to make a mistake but neither can his batting partner."