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Agar’s near-ton a piece of sporting folklore

UPDATED 12 July, 2013 11:12AM AEDT | by Alexander Grant, fan writer for The Roar 1

Ashton Agar, the man most of country had never heard of, became the talk of the nation overnight after his 98 runs saw him not only bring Australia back into the first Ashes Test but create a story that could be remembered for generations to come.

That story starts with a 19-year-old who strolled to the crease with his team sitting at 9-117, a daunting 98 runs behind England, and lit up Trent Bridge with a flurry of shot making more befitting of an accomplished top order player.

Agar started out with a cool attitude and patience that seemed out of ordinary for a tail-ender. Was it by chance that the new kid had been defaulted to the bottom because of his lack of test experience?

As he refused to get out, it became apparent that was the case.

Suddenly boundaries started to flow. England’s short balls and attempts to give Agar a rough welcome into Test cricket were pushed aside. The home side persisted in striding away from the tight line they had demolished the upper order with and paid the price for it.

Ashton had his 50 in as many deliveries and there was now more than a hint of concern among the home crowd and team. Who is this young man? Why is he at the bottom when his refuses to put a foot wrong with the bat?

Turns out, many on the other side of the world were wondering the same thing, but with a much happier disposition.

Twitter blew up with #Ashtag and #Ashton making the rounds quicker than the youngster could find the boundary rope. That says a lot considering his golden innings consisted of 12 fours and a pair of sixes. Popularity stemmed not just from his surprisingly adept technique, but his demeanor and shot selection in an unfamiliar environment of big-stage cricket.

60. 70. 80. 90. The runs kept coming. It was only in an Graeme Swann over where Agar finally looked like he was being truly tested. But he made it through.

Then the unbreakable kid from Western Australia finally snapped. He had missed several tempting pull shots from the hands of Stuart Broad before finally bashing one into the mitts of Swann in the deep on-side. 

The tactics that had done nothing to him early in his innings had finally lured him into a simple mistake, off a solid shot regardless.

It had been a long time since I had watched a sporting event where I felt my heart physically sink. I felt like I had been robbed of a moment, along with millions of others, when Swann celebrated like he removed Sachin Tendulkar in his prime.

Then Agar removed his helmet and beamed with a smile that forced a similar one out of me. He didn’t care. He had helped lift a poor side into a winning position on cricket’s biggest stage, the Ashes. That’s what mattered to him. And suddenly I knew I had seen something that went beyond simply rewriting the record books.

Agar didn’t just change the history books, he wrote himself into Australian sporting folklore. He had joined an elite company whose tales are those we know we will end up sharing with future generations. That’s the importance of what many late-night viewers experienced on the 11th of July.

The man clearly knew how to make the most out of a situation, when he survived a stumping call with his team sitting at just 131. Turned out he thought sending that total to 280 would make a better story. That moment might have rattled a lesser player, but Agar clearly has a wonderful mental game that even his own selectors might not have been aware of.

Australia took of lead into the second innings of England. A lead. From 98 runs down on the last wicket. Let the enormity of that sink in, if you hadn’t already last night.

It would be criminal to forget the contribution of the man at the other end, Phil Hughes. Here’s a man that has consistently had so much pressure applied towards his game, yet his was able to remain composed enough to assist his young teammate (and himself) in finding history.

Hughes ended his innings on 81 not out, having watched six of his teammates walk back to the pavilion before him.

This was one of his finest moments in Test cricket since his South Africa century in his early test days, and the history books may mention only his partnership contribution but he deserves an equal share of the imminent truckload of praise about to be heaped on his fellow young countryman.

In an innings full of highlights, none stand out more than a graceful on-side shot where Agar lofted his back foot high into the air as he put his body through the motions.

It was clear from that moment that this kid had a future, and not just with the ball.

This is just a selection of the records that were broken on day 2 at Nottingham:

* Highest 10th wicket partnership in Test cricket history, 163

* Highest score by a number 11 in Test cricket history, beating last year’s 95 effort by Timo Best by 3 runs

* Highest score by a number 11 on debut. More than doubles Wawrick Armstrong’s 45 from 1902.

* Second fastest Test 50 on debut, behind Adam Gilchrist

* Second debutant to finish with the highest test score at number 11

* The third time the 10th wicket pair have doubled their team’s score (remember Lyon/Siddle in South Africa? 47? Yep, that’s one of the others)

* Fifth Australian 100-run 10th wicket partnership

Well played, young man. Well played.

Fan article originally published on The Roar's sports opinion website and kindly reproduced here thanks to The Roar. Submit your own cricket fan article for potential publication on cricket.com.au.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
 

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia

First Posted 12 July, 2013 11:04AM AEDT

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