Agar impresses in bid to join Lyon's pride

Western Australian set to return in Baggy Green after performance on Darwin dustbowl puts him in box seat to play alongside Nathan Lyon

Allrounder Ashton Agar has firmed to play his first Test in more than four years after the Western Australian took four wickets in helpful spinning conditions on the final day of Australia's intra-squad match in Darwin.

Agar had hitherto been a peripheral figure in the Steve Smith XI v David Warner XI clash at Marrara Oval, making scores of one and 14 and taking 0-37 from 15 overs in the first innings.

Quick Single: Full report, highlights from Darwin

In fact, his selection for the Bangladesh tour was looking very much a questionable one when Victorian Jon Holland – who took 50 wickets in last summer's Sheffield Shield but was a surprising omission from the touring party – opened the final day by claiming four wickets for one run from 11 balls.

Holland takes four wickets in 11 balls in Darwin

But the left-arm spinner responded to the challenge thrown down by his spin-bowling counterpart impressively, claiming 4-55 from 12 overs across the afternoon, and while three of his victims were bowlers, the other was Steve Smith, who had looked just about untouchable in the first innings but edged through to Jackson Bird at first slip second time around to depart without scoring.

Agar found appreciable bounce and kept the scoring tight until he received some heavy-handed treatment from fellow spinners Mitch Swepson and Tom Andrews late in the contest.

Steve Smith was caught at slip off Agar // Getty
Steve Smith was caught at slip off Agar // Getty

The natural deterioration of the pitch was hurried along by artificial means at the behest of the Australians in order to best simulate Bangladesh conditions, and coach Darren Lehmann was happy that his spin bowlers were able to have an impact (Nathan Lyon took 2-26 from 10 overs), even if the batting left plenty to be desired.

"We would've like to have batted a little longer today but they were tough conditions, and that's exactly what we wanted leading into Bangladesh." Lehmann said.

Best bits from day three of Aussie intra-squad match

"I'm pleased the spinners got the rewards today, and it was another learning curve in tough conditions.

"We've got to get better at batting longer periods, but I thought the spinners were good. It was a great challenge (for the batsmen) and that's what we wanted.

"The curators made the wickets exactly like what we're going to encounter over there."

The Marrara Oval groundstaff delivered for the Aussies // Getty
The Marrara Oval groundstaff delivered for the Aussies // Getty

With Holland not travelling to Bangladesh and Swepson conceding 128 from 23 wicket-less overs in the match, Agar has the rails run to the Baggy Green.

Ironically, it was Lehmann who played a role in the young spin-bowling allrounder's shock selection for the first Test of the 2013 Ashes, when the then 19-year-old stunned the cricket world with an incredible 98 from No.11.

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Agar played the next Test as well but failed to make an impact with the ball, and hasn't received another opportunity since, with Holland and Steve O'Keefe preferred when Australia have opted to play a second spinner alongside Lyon.

That will again be the case in Dhaka, with Lehmann confirming the tourists would be looking at a bowling attack comprising two pacemen and two spinners for the series opener on August 27 in Dhaka.

Ashton Agar in full flight // Getty
Ashton Agar in full flight // Getty

"History says you probably are, so that's what we'll start with," he said of that combination. "(Agar) bowled beautifully today."

Potentially of concern to Lehmann will be the lack of batting time for openers David Warner and Matthew Renshaw, as well as Usman Khawaja, who failed to press his claims for the No.3 spot that he lost earlier this year with scores of seven and one for the match.


Warner has already had his coach's backing to make runs in Bangladesh and overturn a disappointing subcontinental record, and in truth Australia's vice-captain was more a victim of bad luck than poor form in this practice match: in the first innings he was bowled by a Josh Hazlewood delivery that barely rose off the surface; and in the second he was forced to retire hurt after being struck on the side of the neck by a bouncer from the same bowler.

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Renshaw and Khawaja opened the batting together today, facing 42 and 41 balls respectively, however Lehmann admitted he would have liked to have seen more.

"You would've like them to have got some more runs," he said. "We had some good contributions, and a few guys scored hundreds which was pleasing, because you're going to need to make big runs over there in the first innings of games.

"They (openers and Khawaja) would've liked to have spent some more time (in the middle, but) we've got a tour game over there so fingers crossed they can get some then."

Australia in Bangladesh 2017

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.

Bangladesh squad (preliminary): Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mahmudullah Riyad, Liton Kumar Das, Mominul Haque, Mehedi Hasan, Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed, Subhashish Roy, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Rubel Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Sanjamul Islam, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Mohammad Saifuddin, Anamul Haque, Abul Hasan Raju, Al Amin Hossain, Nasir Hossain, Muktar Ali, Tanbir Haider, Saqlain Sajib, Shafiul Islam.

11-17 August Australia pre-tour training camp, Darwin

18 August Australia arrive

22-23 August Tour match, Fatullah

27-31 August First Test, Dhaka

4-8 September Second Test, Chittagong