Agar banks on white-ball form to lift red-ball returns
A fixture in Australia's T20 sides, spinner Ashton Agar hopes his form and experience will serve him well when Australia's Test team needs a second spinner
19 May 2020, 02:02 PM AEST
Ashton Agar believes an extended, consistent run in Australia's limited-overs teams remains his best chance of adding to his four Test caps as Nathan Lyon's understudy on overseas tours.
Agar is among a band of spinners vying to be top of the pecking order to partner Lyon on Australia's foreign Test tours, competing with Mitchell Swepson, Jon Holland and fellow limited-overs tweaker Adam Zampa.
Swepson seemingly leapt to the front of that queue in January when he was added to the Australian Test squad for the New Year's match against New Zealand at the SCG, but the postponement of this winter's two-Test tour of Bangladesh has left the door ajar.
Australia is expected to play Test series away from home against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India as well as the rescheduled Bangladesh tour over the next two years.
Agar has become a fixture in Australia's T20 side, playing in each of the team's last nine starts, including all six Gillette T20 Internationals against Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the start of last summer, and three in South Africa where he claimed a hat-trick.
And while he played in all three of January's ODIs in India, he featured in only one of the three games in South Africa, and all 13 of his games have come on foreign soil.
"It's been tough being in and out, in and out, that's how my journey has felt like in white-ball cricket for Australia," Agar said.
"I feel like I keep bouncing back and I keep improving every time I come back.
"Hopefully I get a good run at it like I am at the moment, keep putting the performances on the board."
Agar's first-class ambitions face an extra level of difficulty being based in Perth where he calls the pace-friendly WACA Ground surface home between white-ball matches for Australia.
"It can be difficult (to get opportunities) especially when there is a lot of white-ball cricket on," Agar said.
"It comes down to your preparation; a really solid base gets you through in red-ball cricket. You can do that when training and playing white-ball cricket.
"You're under pressure to bowl in the right spot in white-ball cricket otherwise it gets banged back over your head for six, a lot more than it does in Test cricket."
Agar has 140 wickets at 41.19 in first-class cricket, and also averages 27.45 with the bat in that format. Last summer in five Shield games with WA he claimed just three wickets in 129 overs that gave up 408 runs, but did his 262 runs at 52.40.
In the white-ball formats, his career marks are 25 wickets in 24 T20 internationals, and an economy rate of 6.73. In his 13 ODIs he's claimed 10 wickets.
"My game is in a really good place, I finished the season really strongly with the T20s over in South Africa," Agar said of a tour that netted him new career-best figures of 5-24 including that memorable hat-trick.
"I felt really consistent. To play consistent Test cricket you need to have a really good idea about how you go about your bowling for a long period of time.
"You have to practice that in games day in day out in Shield cricket, take wickets, put yourself in the best position you can to be the second spinner."
With the Bangladesh tour postponed, Agar's attention turns to the T20 World Cup, which remains in limbo, still tentatively scheduled to be hosted in Australia in October and November.
"It's hard to predict anything in this climate but in terms of preparation, it's really simple: you just have to stay ready," Agar said.
"Your job as a professional international cricketer is you always have to be ready because opportunities come and go and you really need to take them when they present because it's a really tough environment to stay in if you're not performing."