Australia wakes up to a new hero: Amazing Agar

AP, BRISBANE, Australia

Sat, Jul 13, 2013 - Page 20

“Agar” was trending on Twitter. Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan admitted even he was cheering for an Aussie. And one respected India-based commentator said it helped him fall in love with cricket all over again.

Yes, 19-year-old Ashton Agar’s 98-run performance on his Test debut brought out all the superlatives, nearly matching the long list of records he set in the first Ashes Test on Thursday.

The clock was ticking a few minutes before midnight and a new day yesterday on Australia’s east coast when Agar fell two runs short of a century.

No matter. The youngster was immediately hailed a hero, featured as the lead item on all breakfast television shows in a country where all-encompassing sporting accomplishments lately have been rare as rain in the Outback.

There was no question that Agar saved the day for Australia at Trent Bridge in Nottingham.

He made the highest Test score by a No. 11 batsman in a record last-wicket stand of 163 with Phillip Hughes (81 not out) as Australia recovered from 117-9 to 280 all out for a first-innings lead of 65. England ended the second day at 80-2 for a lead of 15 runs.

The previous best for a No. 11 was Tino Best’s 95 for West Indies against England last year.

Agar, with his parents John and Sonia cheering from the stands, had barely walked, smiling all the way, to the pavilion before the plaudits began pouring in.

Vaughan, the former opening batsman who captained England in 51 Tests over a five-year period, got caught up in Agar’s incredible batting performance.

“Never ever thought I would say I am disappointed a Aussie got out but I really wanted Ashton Agar to get a 100... (hash)Ashes,” Vaughan tweeted.

Minutes later, veteran Indian commentator Harsha Bhogle, who regularly appears on international TV and radio broadcasts, said he was moved by Agar’s exploits.

“You think you have seen it all and then there comes a moment so fresh, so touching that you fall in love with cricket all over again,” Bhogle tweeted.

Back home, Australian media searching for some glimmer of sporting satisfaction were quick to jump on the Agar bandwagon.

It has been a lean sports year Down Under. A week ago, the Wallabies’ lost to the British and Irish Lions in the third and deciding rugby Test. There have been drug scandals and off-field incidents enveloping its rugby league and Australian Rules codes.

Spin bowler Agar was a surprise selection for the first Test, a fact not lost on Fairfax Media columnist Malcolm Knox.

“Sunshine lit up Trent Bridge on Thursday, intensifying both the colors and the shadows,” Knox wrote. “Agar’s batting, like his selection in the first place, was so unexpected it stole the show.”

The Daily Telegraph in Sydney headlined “Agar’s Ashes debut for the ages,” while Greg Baum, under the headline “An innings beyond imagination,” wrote in The Age in Melbourne: “Michael Clarke must have exhorted his team to watch Ashton Agar play an innings that surely no one will see again.”