A 19 year old Aussie left-arm spinner was handed the baggy green at the beginning of the first Ashes Test. As Glenn Mcgrath handed out the cap to this teenager, little did he know- as he later admitted- that he was handing it out to a new batting star.
Ashton Agar, sure to be a household name in the years to come, has done more than score a 98 as a no. 11 batsman on test debut. He has done more than break all sorts of world records. He has reinvigorated the Ashes- the longest standing rivalry in cricket. He has brought his country, almost single-handedly, back into a test where hope was lost- and he has pulled eyes from all over the globe back into this previously one-sided contest. Many would say- this is the beauty of Test Cricket. Ah, but this is the beauty of young blood.
Michael Holding argued that Agar was, by no means, a no. 11 batsman. He was just slotted there because he was the new guy- much like new guys are always slotted in at dangerous bat-pad positions or close-ins. It’s always the new kid- always pick on the new kid, there’s no place for him anywhere else.
The way Agar started his innings, you’d think that he was just a pale version of a batting Mitchell Starc. Wiry arms, an awkward stance and a long bat. On a sunny Thursday morning though, Agar- when he stepped in to join a struggling Hughes at 116-9- he had the confidence of a 27 year old Shikhar Dhawan. The only difference being- Dhawan is an opener, it is his job to intimidate bowlers.
By the time Agar holed out to deep midwicket on yet another ordinary short ball by Broad, he was 2 runs short of what would have been the biggest headlines in World Cricket this year. Or any year, for a while. 98 runs- and most of them, pure cricketing shots- played by a tailender that went from ‘having nothing to lose’ to ‘playing with responsibility and a calm head’. It was the most stunning innings, by any stretch of imagination- not least because of the situation of the game. A 98 when Australia were alredy 400-9 on the board wouldn’t have shocked the world so much. But this was special.
In his first innings, he broke the previous world record held by a no. 11- Tino Best against the same England attack a year ago (95). Best had gone for the big shot too, but that was an innings filled with typical lusty blows and wild swings. Agar played the situation, almost even guided his batting partner Hughes- who was struggling against Swann as usual. Their 161 run partnership was a last-wicket World record too, as was the fact that the last-wicket partnership more than doubled the team score.
In the end, Agar’s apology to his heartbroken younger brothers in the crowd- demonstrated the kind of fresh-faced talent he is. He is, in stark contrast to another recent star Jadeja, in the side for his bowling- but has ended up as the best batsman in a struggling Australian side. He may not do much to write home with, with the ball, or even succeed like this ever again with the bat. But his contribution to the annals of Ashes history is unquestionable. He may have thrown open the doors to a new era of Australian Test Cricket, unwittingly, with his bat. He may not even play the next Ashes series in Australia, but nobody will forget his name anytime soon.