Teenage debutant Ashton Agar frustrated England with a record-breaking innings yesterday, as Australia seized an improbable lead on the second day of the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.
At lunch, last man Agar was 69 not out, the 19-year-old breaking a 111-year-old record for the highest score by a No. 11 batsman on a Test debut of 45 not out set by Australia great Warwick Armstrong against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1902.
Australia were in dire straits at 117 for nine, 98 runs behind Ashes-holders England’s first innings 215, after losing five wickets for only nine runs.
Yet they reached lunch on 229 for nine — a first innings lead of 14 — thanks to an unbroken last wicket stand of 112 between Agar, whose knock was the highest individual score of the match to date, and Phil Hughes on 63 not out.
Agar, primarily a left-arm spinner and a shock selection for this Test after playing just 10 first-class matches for Western Australia, made a brilliant run-a-ball 50, including seven fours and a six.
Hughes, seven not out overnight, did what so many batsmen in this match had failed to do and stayed in to complete a 94-ball 50.
James Anderson had led the way for England with five for 70, his 14th haul of five or more wickets in an inning in 83 Tests.
Australia resumed on 140 runs behind England on 75 for four, after an overcast first day where seamer Peter Siddle rocked England with five for 50.
However, yesterday saw sunshine and blue skies, which promised better batting conditions for Steven Smith, 38 not out overnight, and Hughes.
Smith drove off-spinner Graeme Swann to the boundary to complete a 72-ball 50 — the first of the match — featuring seven fours and a six. However, Anderson, who on Wednesday had gone past England fast-bowling great Fred Trueman’s record of 307 Test wickets, made the breakthrough.
Smith, driving loosely at an Anderson, gaining reverse-swing, got a thin edge and was caught behind low down by wicket-keeper Matt Prior for 53.
Wickets then tumbled until Agar’s arrival at the crease.
The teenager did survive a desperately close stumping appeal from Prior off Swann on six, with Australia then 131 for nine — 84 runs adrift — as third umpire Marais Erasmus eventually ruled in his favor.
The fall of the ninth wicket saw yesterday’s opening session extended by 30 minutes, but that gave Agar, whose highest first-class score is 71 not out, the time to level the scores with a late cut four off Swann.
Before yesterday’s play, England seamer Stuart Broad, who did not take the field on Wednesday after being struck on the shoulder while batting, passed a fitness test.
It looked as if he would not be required to bowl, but England captain Alastair Cook turned to the Nottinghamshire seamer in a last-ditch bid to take the final Australia wicket, but to no avail.