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Investec Ashes 2013

Agar's 98: An innings that defies convention

A series of surfer entries celebrating Ashton Agar's momentous Ashes debut

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Writing for The Age, Greg Baum praises Ashton Agar for playing an innings beyond imagination, which rocketed the 19-year-old into the collective conscience, and gave the Ashes the early twist it pined for.

One of cricket's enduring joys is that it is limited only by imagination, and so every now and then realises impossible dreams. In at least three ways - highest score by a No 11, highest by a No 11 on debut, highest last-wicket partnership - Agar's 98 was an innings that had never been played in the game's history. Its exotic element was gloriously self-evident, but in the way it suddenly balanced up a seemingly lost match, its consequences might prove as far-reaching as any of the most famous magnums opus.

Malcolm Knox, writing for The Age, lauds Agar's performance with the bat, especially considering Australia were 117 for 9, and which lifted a team that was on the ropes. Knox also highlights the selfless role Phillip Hughes played in supporting the tyke through his maiden knock.

The sinking feeling in the Australian dressing room was delayed, if not dispelled, in unprecedented and unforgettable fashion. But it was hard to tell if the Agar-Hughes happy hour was entirely good or bad news. Of course it was good. It was great. It was a joy to behold. Agar was astonishing, while Hughes's controlled, under-the-nose defence was probably more important for the long term stability of Australia's batting order. Yet there was a sneaking sense that this partnership was conducted in brilliant light when batting got easier and easier. It highlighted what an opportunity the earlier Australian batsmen had thrown away, and also what a benign surface England and its second-innings specialists were going to bat on, with endless time up their sleeves.

Phillip Hughes has had a rather mixed bag at Test level, beginning with two sublime hundreds as an opener against South Africa, followed by an indifferent Ashes tour in 2009, and languishing with a series of poor scores against India on tour. The Independent's John Townsend charts the troubled batsman's fortunes, and examines the critical role he played on the second day with Ashton Agar.

Tried and discarded in the top four places, he was listed to start this Ashes series at No 5. It didn't happen. He wasn't given a chance to lose that position before he was hastened to No 6 in place of Steve Smith who, on Michael Clarke's demise in the first innings, was promoted to maintain the left-right combination.

Simon Hughes, writing for The Telegraph, views Agar's innings as a product of Alastair Cook's decision to go for the jugular, with an eye on preparing for his batting as one of the openers. This split view can come back to hurt you in a big way, as demonstrated by Agar's resistance on Thursday.

Having seen Australia suddenly lose five wickets for nine runs, Cook assumed the same pair of bowlers - James Anderson and Graeme Swann - would polish the innings off. Cook would not have known that Ashton Agar had more of a reputation as a batsman than a bowler and that he has 'play with no fear' written on his bedroom wall.

The Guardian's Barney Ronay celebrates Agar's momentous Ashes debut, and the youthful exuberance he brought to the contest, helping Australia recover from a debilitating situation to one in the ascendancy. His positivity at the crease, along with the ease in strokeplay, made Agar a fan favourite, with the Trent Bridge crowd willing him on to the landmark.

He is of course only masquerading as a No11, having appeared most recently at No7 for Western Australia, from where he made a match-winning 71 not out against Tasmania in February. But this is still a teenage debutant who six weeks ago was playing for Henley against North Mymms CC in the Home Counties Premier League and here had to start his innings against Swann and Jimmy Anderson. Unfazed by that stumping let-off he began to click through his own languid gears against Steven Finn, swivelling to play a lovely Gower-esque pull for four, before stepping inside and lofting Swann high over long-off for six with a true swing of the bat and a follow-through entirely devoid of tension.

The Herald Sun lists 11 things you may not know about Ashton Agar.

4. Ashton went to Melbourne's De La Salle College where he graduated in 2011. He scored 90.55 in the ATAR, putting him among the school's top 5% of scholars.

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