Qantas Tour of NZ 2018

Agar flourishes as Aussies buck trend

Ashton Agar says absence of leg-spinner from Australia's T20 side is a reflection of in-form bowling attack

Louis Cameron, in Auckland

19 February 2018, 01:44 PM

While he's quietly pushed himself to the front of the T20 bowling queue, Ashton Agar is uncertain as to whether Australia can prosper without the shortest format's most valuable commodity – wrist-spin.

Surprisingly overlooked for Australia's Test squad for the Qantas Tour of South Africa, Agar has instead made himself into an invaluable piece of the new-look national T20 side and established himself as the country’s most frugal spinner.

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His effectiveness with the ball, combined with his batting and fielding ability, have seen him leapfrog leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who was dumped after playing alongside Agar in Australia's tri-series opener.

Undefeated from four games and now on the verge of being crowned the No.1 T20I team in the world, Australia nonetheless find themselves bucking conventional wisdom in the shortest format by not picking a specialist wrist-spinner, a point Zampa has said he's discussed with coach Darren Lehmann.

Adelaide Strikers romped to this season's KFC Big Bash League title due in no small part to ace Afghan leggie Rashid Khan, while the likes of Shadab Khan, Mitchell Swepson, Fawad Ahmed, Yasir Shah were all among the tournament's most effective bowlers.

And of the six top-ranked T20 bowlers according to the ICC, four are leg-spinners - Rashid, Ish Sodhi, Samuel Badree and Imran Tahir.

Five of the past seven BBL champions have had a wrist-spinner play a major role in their success, a factor Australia will undoubtedly weigh up as they consider the best recipe for success at the 2020 World T20 on home soil.

"I think we'd equally be as successful with a wrist-spinner in the side," Agar said.

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"Wrist-spinners are extremely valuable bowlers. They can spin the ball both ways and they're hard to pick especially under lights, which is a what a lot of batters find.

"'Zamps' is pretty stiff to miss out. We've got a really good team out there at the moment and he's a really good bowler. He's bowling beautifully in the nets and spinning the ball both ways.

"It's a tough situation. We're playing well at the moment, which is great, but I'm sure it would be the same if 'Zamps' was there as well."

But Agar appears to have entrenched himself as the side's No.1 T20 spin option, a brisk rise given his modest expectations at the outset of the trans-Tasman T20 tri-series.

His immense improvement in the shortest format is backed up by the numbers. Of bowlers to have sent down at least 10 overs in the tri-series, Agar's economy rate of 6.28 is comfortably the best, while he was the second-most frugal spinner in BBL|07 (only Rashid, who conceded 5.65 per over, finished with a better economy rate than Agar's 5.74).

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"I thought I might play one or two games, I wasn't sure if I was going to play every game," said the 24-year-old.

"I'm pleased with the way I'm bowling. I think I've been used really well, I think 'Bull' (stand-in skipper David Warner) has captained me really smartly and bowled me at good times as well.

"I'm proud of my T20 form at the moment, it's been a lot of bowling and a lot of effort that's gone into it."

Australia’s Qantas Tour of New Zealand concludes with the tri-series final at Eden Park on Wednesday.

Agar isn’t sure what to except from the same Eden Park track that saw almost 500 runs belted in Friday’s record-breaking match, with showers expected in the lead-in to the decider.

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"It depends with rain around and how long the wicket's under covers," he said.

"I imagine it'll be fairly similar but if it does dry it out, it might spin a little bit more.

"That would be nice, to bowl on this small ground with a bit of turn. That might help a bit."

Trans-Tasman T20 Tri-Series

First T20I Australia beat New Zealand by seven wickets. Scorecard

Second T20I Australia beat England by five wickets. Scorecard

Third T20I Australia beat England by seven wickets. Scorecard

Fourth T20I New Zealand beat England by 12 runs. Scorecard

Fifth T20I Australia beat New Zealand by five wickets. Scorecard

Sixth T20I England beat New Zealand by 2 runs. Scorecard

Final Australia v NZ, Eden Park, February 21. Scorecard

Australia squad: David Warner (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Ben Dwarshuis, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.

England squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood.

New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Anaru Kitchen, Colin Munro, Seth Rance, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Ben Wheeler.