Six great Australia Ashes debuts

Looking back at the six best Australian Ashes Test debuts against the Old Enemy

The pre-Magellan Ashes war of words may have centered around England's lack of Ashes-hardened inclusions in their touring party, but after Australia announced their own squad on Thursday it became apparent that five of their 13 players are similarly unaccustomed to the notorious pressure the famous series brings. 

Luckily for the incoming personnel, Ashes folklore is littered with examples of players who were given a chance to start their Baggy Green journey against the nation's fiercest rival and grabbed it with both hands.

Here are six stand-out Test debut performances by Australians in Ashes matches over the past 50 years.

1. Greg Chappell (Perth 1970-71)

In the same series that heralded the arrival of Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh on the Test scene, Chappell was included for the second Test after the opening match at the Gabba resulted in a draw.

Notably, given that he went on to become the foremost Australian batter of his era, Chappell was included as an all-rounder and batted at number seven (where he scored a patient 108 from 218 deliveries in a 219-run sixth-wicket stand with Ian Redpath) and was employed as first-change bowler with his medium-pacers behind Graham McKenzie and Alan Thomson.

By the time Australia toured England for a return bout the following year, Chappell had been elevated to the top four of Australia's batting under his captain and older brother, Ian, a position that he made his own until his retirement 12 years later.

Age at debut: 22

Form line: 853 runs at 60.93 (HS 156no, 4 centuries) & 14 wkts at 31.86 in 10 first-class matches before debut

Total career Tests: 87

Massie's masterclass

2. Bob Massie (Lord's, 1972)

Having lost the opening Test of their 1972 Ashes tour, Ian Chappell and his fellow selectors opted to include an extra seamer - Dennis Lillee's Western Australia new-ball partner Bob Massie - for the second match at Lord's.

Massie had notionally represented Australia in three unofficial 'Tests' against a Rest of the World XI that was assembled to replace the scheduled 1971-72 tour by South Africa, which had been cancelled in protest at the nation's ongoing race-based apartheid laws.

However, in his first formal Test appearance under grey skies at Lord's, Massie mesmerised England to claim 16-137 (8-84 and 8-53) in what remains an unsurpassed return for an Australia bowler on debut. Massie never recaptured the swing or success of his maiden match, and barely six months later his international career was over. Within a year, he could no longer make the WA team.

Age at debut: 25

Form line: 32 wkts at 25.06 (best 7/76, 2 x 5wkts/inn) in 10 matches before debut (inc 1972 Ashes tour games)

Total career Tests: 6

3. Rodney Hogg (Brisbane, 1978-79)

With the fracture of the World Series Cricket divide growing ever-wider, Australia scheduled six Ashes Tests against an opponent significantly less affected by the defection of players to the Kerry Packer camp in the hope of winning the battle for fans and credibility.

While the on-field battles proved heavily lopsided – England scooped the series 5-1 to regain the Ashes – fans loyal to Australia's establishment cause found an unlikely fast bowling hero in Rodney Hogg.

As brashly anti-authoritarian as he was anti-batsmen, Hogg drew a cult following after snaring 6-74 in his maiden bowling innings and repeatedly piercing the hitherto impenetrable defence of England's premier opener, Geoffrey Boycott, throughout the summer.

Hogg finished the campaign with a remarkable 41 wickets at 12.85, the best return by any bowler in an Ashes series on Australian soil.  

Age at debut: 27

Form line: 49 wkts at 22.84 (best 6/80, 4 x 5wkts/inn) in 10 matches before Test debut

Total career Tests: 38

Yes Moments: Junior seizes his opportunity

4. Mark Waugh (Adelaide, 1990-91)

Famously included in the Australia line up at the expense of his twin brother Stephen, Waugh was no new boy to the international scene having played his first ODI for his country more than two years earlier.

He had also been part of New South Wales' Sheffield Shield outfit for five years, and played several seasons as the overseas professional for English county Essex which meant he had notched in excess of 100 first-class matches and scored 7500-plus runs when he finally earned a call-up.

After compiling a languidly elegant 138, having entered the arena with Australia in some bother at 4-104, Waugh returned to the dressing room after his memorable maiden effort and dryly observed to his then Test captain Allan Border "see, you should've picked me earlier".

Age at debut: 25

Form line: 1085 runs at 83.46 (HS 229no, 4 centuries), 7 wkts at 42.86 in 10 matches before Test debut

Total career Tests: 128

The Inner Circle: Blewy gets by, with a little help...

5. Greg Blewett (Adelaide, 1994-95)

Adelaide was abuzz for the fourth Ashes Test of 1994-95, with the Ashes safely in Australia's keeping and local lads Greg Blewett and Peter McIntyre joining the Baggy Green fraternity. Blewett ensured the stands again filled on the fourth day when he ended day three on 91 not out and within reach of a century on debut.

That outcome became problematic as Australia's lower-order collapsed that fourth morning and fast bowler Craig McDermott was rushed to hospital and seemingly unable to bat, so it was left to acknowledged batting bunny McIntyre to stay with his close mate and see him to a century amid high drama.

Blewett finished unbeaten on 102, the 11th batsman to post a Test hundred in his debut innings for Australia and the most recent to do so in an Ashes match.

Age at debut: 23

Form line: 1219 runs at 71.71 (HS 268, 4 centuries), 18 wkts at 21.94 in 10 matches before Test debut

Total career Tests: 46

Ashton Agar's famous partnership with Phillip Hughes at Trent Bridge, Ashes 2015 // Getty Images
Ashton Agar's famous partnership with Phillip Hughes at Trent Bridge, Ashes 2015 // Getty Images

6. Ashton Agar (Trent Bridge, 2013)

A surprise selection as a front line spin bowler, Ashton Agar's Test debut quickly became a celebration of his capabilities with the bat. While his batting history indicated that slotting him in at number 11 was not an accurate reflection of his ability, his novice status – the teenager had played just 10 first-class matches prior to his elevation – meant he was relegated to last on the list.

If that was partly because the brains trust was unsure how readily he might adapt to Test cricket, then he soon signalled it was not an issue adding 163 for the last wicket with the late Phillip Hughes and coming within one well-timed blow of an unlikely, unprecedented hundred on debut at number 11.

Age at debut: 19

Form line: 336 runs at 33.60 (HS 71no), 31 wkts at 29.39 (best 5-65, 1 x 5wkts/inn) in 10 matches before Test debut

Total career Tests: 4 (to date)

2017-18 International Fixtures:

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Gillette ODI Series v England

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Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

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Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

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Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

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Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21