Agar makes history to swing match back to Australia
Number 11 batsman scores record 98 on debut to hurt England
Australia’s number 11 batsman Ashton Agar hits out on his way to 98 during day two of the first Ashes Test against Australia at Trent Bridge. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Agar fell an agonising two runs short of becoming the first number 11 in cricket history to make a hundred, as he and Hughes (81no) carried Australia to 280 all out on the second afternoon.
Agar was watched by his parents, who followed him round the world from Perth and were rewarded not only by a surprise debut for the left-arm spinner but a remarkable innings which rescued Australia from 117 for nine and gave them a lead of 65.
The left-hander first walked out to bat after James Anderson (five for 85) had this morning kickstarted a rush of five wickets for nine runs to leave the tourists looking almost certain to concede a major mid-match advantage.
He played barely a single loose or mistimed shot, and gave no semblance of a chance until Stuart Broad had him caught pulling to deep midwicket to end a 101-ball innings which contained 12 fours and two sixes.
Shellshocked England appeared to run out of ideas, holding back Broad – passed fit to bowl at start of play, despite the shoulder injury he suffered last night – for almost two-and-a-half hours as Agar and Hughes extended the morning session 30 minutes past the scheduled lunch break.
First-class playing conditions dictate that curiosity, once a team has nine wickets down, and England fell foul of the rule for the second time in as many years.
It was only last summer that they last ran into a number 11 in world record-breaking form, when West Indies’ Tino Best smashed 95 in a double-century stand with Denesh Ramdin at Edgbaston.
This time, Agar’s astounding performance was almost nipped in the bud when England thought they had him stumped off Graeme Swann for only six out of 131 for nine.
Third umpire Marais Erasmus made a marginal call otherwise and Australia’s teenage sensation never looked back.
Agar’s innings was full of pedigree shots, and clean striking, which belied his position in the order and will surely mean he makes a career for himself much higher up the order.
In Broad’s absence, Steven Finn set him up with some erratic bowling which also helped to give Hughes the confidence he needed at the start of an all-time Test record 10th-wicket partnership.
Hughes had come into bat last night and then, after Steve Smith (53) hit the first half-century of the 2013 Ashes, this morning witnessed what seemed set to be a terminal collapse at the other end as Anderson demonstrated yet again this is one of his favourite hunting grounds.
Fourteen wickets had fallen under heavy cloud cover on a frantic opening day, but today’s sunny skies appeared to make bowling harder work.
Smith dominated his stand of 55 with Hughes to take Australia into three figures with only four wickets down; yet less than half-an-hour later the tourists found themselves one more mistake away from a near century first-innings deficit as the collapse took hold and soon overshadowed even yesterday’s manic procession.
By the time Smith went for one drive too many off Anderson, he had passed his 72-ball half-century with a cover-drive off Swann for his seventh four.
But Brad Haddin was bowled on the back foot by an off-break that turned sharply, and Anderson upped the ante again with his second wicket in successive overs.
Mitchell Starc could not even get off the mark, dropped at second slip by Swann off Anderson before he instead became the England pace spearhead’s third caught-behind victim of the day.
Broad was fit for purpose this morning, after the blow on his shoulder while batting which made him unavailable to take the new ball last night.
It seemed England would have the luxury of another day’s rest for their recovering frontline seamer — with Anderson in full cry, and Swann in support making it nine down when James Pattinson had to go lbw despite a DRS review.
Hughes and Agar were in no mood to go quietly, though, and not before they had chalked up several notable pieces of cricket history and altered the complexion of this eventful match, anyway.