Cricket Expert & Columnist
The Ashes: debutant Ashton Agar no number 11, says Mike Atherton
Mike Atherton hailed Ashton Agar's nerveless knock after watching the debutant make history.
Last Updated: 11/07/13 8:15pm
Agar, 19, registered the highest score by a No 11 batsman on Test debut, scoring 98 in a phenomenal final-wicket stand of 163 with Phil Hughes (81no) to turn a potential first-innings deficit into a 65-run lead over England on day two of the first Ashes Test.
The home side responded with 80-2 in their second innings before stumps to erase the arrears and earn a slender lead of 15.
Agar's knock eclipsed the previous debutant record of 45no set by Australian Warwick Armstrong in his maiden innings, against England at Melbourne in 1902, and is the highest all-time Test score by a number 11, beating the 95 scored by West Indian Tino Best.
The teenager joined Hughes with Australia deep in the mire on 117-9 after England, bowled out for 215 on day one, had snared five wickets for nine runs.
But the pair turned the match on its head with Agar reaching his maiden fifty at a run-a-ball and outscoring Hughes, striking spinner Graeme Swann for six and tucking into some wayward deliveries from Steven Finn.
"It has been an extraordinary turnaround," said Atherton. "James Anderson and Graeme Swann were all over Australia but then there was a magnificent partnership between Agar and Hughes.
"Hughes' defence against Swann has been a revelation really, because he's had a nightmare against off-spinners for some time now.
"England won't have seen Agar before this Test - and they didn't know he was playing on the morning of the game - so they won't have had any chance to do any pre-planning against him at all, has shown that he's a serious young all-rounder. He's no number 11.
"His has been a nerveless performance. He has played some astonishing shots - proper cricket shots. He is regarded as an all-rounder in Australia - he's down at number 11 because he's 19 years old and it's his first Test match.
"Australia's tail can bat even though they were blown away this morning and it is going to be a feature of this series. I think we'll find young Ashton Agar up the order at some stage. Swann has a fantastic record against left-handers, so the way that he's played him really stands out."
Fellow Sky Sports commentator Sir Ian Botham said Agar's efforts deserved a Test century.
"I thought it was a magnificent innings," he said. "When Ashton Agar was selected the other morning we all looked at each other as we didn't know anything about him.
"Well - we know exactly who he is now. He's a very talented cricketer who plays some great shots and is prepared to take the short ball on.
"England bowled poorly to him before lunch and he took advantage of it and took the game to them; before they woke up he was scoring at a run-a-ball.
"I think everybody wanted him to get those two extra runs because it was a special innings. But he left the pitch smiling and if he's got that sort of attitude then he'll probably go on to greater things."
With Australia on 131-9, England believed they had Agar out stumped off Swann when the tail-ender had just six to his name - the batsman's foot appearing to not be back over the line when wicketkeeper Matt Prior broke the stumps - but third umpire Marais Erasmus decided that there was not enough evidence to give Agar out.
Atherton told Sky Sports that the decision was something of a surprise.
"You didn't think this was going to be a crucial moment at the time because you presumed that England would get Agar out at some stage," he reflected.
"It was a big, big moment. Most of us [in the commentary box] thought Agar was out - most of us thought that there was enough evidence that his foot hadn't got back behind the line for Marais Erasmus, the third umpire, to give that out.
"But he decided in the end that he couldn't be certain and that's his prerogative."
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