England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day July 11, 2013

Agar's world records create extraordinary day


England 215 and 80 for 2 (Cook 37*, Pietersen 35*) lead Australia 280 (Agar 98, Hughes 81*, Anderson 5-85) by 15 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

No last man has ever made a Test hundred. Ashton Agar came within inches of achieving it in his maiden Test innings. His eyes lit up at the opportunity to pull Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann flung himself forward to hold the catch at deep midwicket. He was denied the ultimate prize, but his extraordinary innings will remain part of cricket folklore forever.

Before Agar's fearless intervention, life was going swimmingly for England. James Anderson was producing a contented exhibition of reverse-swing bowling. Swann was finding substantial turn. Australia lost five wickets for nine runs in 32 balls and were in disarray at 117 for 9. But if England had imagined that a decisive advantage in the first Investec Test was theirs for the taking, as Australia's first innings shrivelled on a parched Trent Bridge morning, they were mistaken.

Agar might have missed a maiden hundred but for the man dubbed 'Ashton Who?' two world records in a day was enough to be going on with. He walked off the ground with a smile and a shrug that won further admiration. His 98 had taken only 101 balls with 11 fours and two sixes. The cricketing world knows his name now.

Agar was the unregarded teenager who told Australia that the game was not yet up. He now holds the highest score by a No. 11 of all time, surpassing Tino Best's 95, also against England, at Edgbaston only last summer. When Best set his mark, that was explosive hitting; this was batting.

He dominated a transformational stand of 163 in 33 overs for the last wicket - another world record - with Phillip Hughes, a specialist batsman who drew strength from his example. He even gave Australia a first-innings lead of 65 and nobody expected that. The Agar family, who had travelled halfway around the world to watch him make his debut, were in jetlag heaven.

England's shock reverberated into the start of the second innings, Joe Root and Jonathan Trott dismissed by Mitchell Starc in 7.3 overs up to tea. Root got a feather on a leg-side flick - his doubts were not strong enough for his captain to agree to a review - and Australia successfully reviewed to gain an lbw against Trott, even though there was no definite proof of an inside edge that the umpire Aleem Dar had suspected.

Maintaining the threat once the new ball had softened was a different proposition. Australia's pace bowlers dried England's scoring rate but found no reverse swing. Alastair Cook was intent on circumspection and even Kevin Pietersen played with utmost sobriety. The last session dripped by. Agar's left-arm spin, although possessing stately promise, lacked threat, although he did have Pietersen dropped at the wicket - a very taxing chance for Brad Haddin - on 25.

Agar will bask forever in the memory of how he twice deposited Swann's offspin straight for six and pulled Steven Finn defiantly to the boundary in a youthful show of Australian defiance. One on-drive late in his innings off Anderson, played with perfect balance, back leg off the ground in the style of Pietersen's flamingo, was a gem.

Australia's innings might have ended on 131 when Agar, on 6, got the benefit of the doubt on Swann's appeal for a stumping from the third umpire, Marais Erasmus. He must know a good story when he sees one. Agar began tentatively but Finn's hapless attempts to browbeat him with short balls on such a somnolent surface failed miserably as the young debutant lived the dream.

Agar pulled him more and more confidently; Finn's tactics looked more and more misconceived. By the time Finn pitched the ball up, Agar had the confidence to drive him eagerly through extra cover. Finn's four overs cost 32 and he has rarely looked so impotent.

England's employment of deep fields to Hughes, a specialist batsman who was blocking, with the intention of bowling to Agar, a No. 11 dismissing the ball to all parts, looked increasingly clownish, a manual that no longer applied.

England had to abandon plans to restrict Stuart Broad to a watching brief. Broad had officially passed a fitness test before play on an injured shoulder but he had bowled gingerly in front of a posse of England backroom staff. He could barely throw the ball in. Until 10 minutes before lunch - a session extended to two-and-a-half hours - he stood there and watched, unemployed for his own protection.

It has been quite a week for Broad. He has had a cortisone injection in his shoulder, been cold shouldered for laddish remarks on Twitter about Andy Murray's girlfriend and then struck on the shoulder by a bouncer from James Pattinson. As the overs ticked by, and he was not called upon, he probably got a chip on his shoulder to complete the set.

Glorious blue skies greeted Australia at the start of play. All it required was some glorious batting to go with it. For half-an-hour, Australia prospered. Hughes punched Anderson confidently in front of point, Steve Smith met the introduction of Swann's offspin by a spritely blow over extra cover to register the first half-century of the series. Thirty-three runs came in untroubled fashion.

Then, as if by instruction, the mood changed abruptly. The ball spun markedly as early as the second morning; it reverse-swung by the 31st over. The nature of Test cricket in England is not what it once was.

England had hinted that they might contest the Ashes on dry surfaces and they have been as good as their word. Australian wickets fell in a rush. The air was rent with England appeals. The skies were still blue, but it no longer mattered.

Smith had played with adventure, but his eye let him down when he drove ambitiously at Anderson and edged to Matt Prior, beaten by just a shade of outswing. Swann, presented with the sort of parched, cracked surface he must have dreamed that his home ground would one day produce, found substantial turn to bowl Brad Haddin, second ball.

Then in the next over Anderson, cupping his hands around the ball, signalled that he felt it was already time for reverse swing, the result of a dry ground and England's wise ball management. Peter Siddle was worked over, dealt in turn a lavish inswinger and then an aggressive outswinger which he edged to Prior.

Anderson proceeded with lithe contentment. Starc was his third wicket of the morning, all to wicketkeeper catches, as he dabbed at a ball that swung away from him.

Pattinson was quickly dispensed with, thrusting forward to an offspinner which failed to turn, the batsman's review of the lbw decision failing when replays showed the ball thudding into leg stump. In walked Agar, about to deliver something quite extraordinary.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on July 12, 2013, 21:36 GMT

    @BobMartin - I try to look at things with more of an open mind obviously but re the Broad decision today - while it may not be as costly to Australia re the state of the game compared to day 2s decs , it was worse that all the decs which went against England put together

  • Nicholas on July 12, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    Crucial session coming up now after lunch. I think England should be aiming for a lead of at least 200. Please Swann, don't get injured out there when it's your turn to bat! We know you love the limelight, but save your thing for the ball in hand (and onwards into the stumps would be nice).

  • Android on July 12, 2013, 11:40 GMT

    Well done agar. Done Best batsman since bradmann with his. turn. Hope that aus win today only. Good luck aus.

  • Dean on July 12, 2013, 11:18 GMT

    Well Agar's dream debut continues. That's a huge 10 mins for Aus just when it looked as if Eng where getting the upperhand. For Eng to stand any chance of winning we need to bat the day out and set Aus at least 230 & hope by tomorrow the pitch is showing some serious signs of detioration. If we are to set set such a target then either Bell, Bairstow or Prior is going to have to produce something special. Aus pretty strong favorites from now.

  • Dummy4 on July 12, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    I am Pakistani and I Love to see Ausi on top.

  • H on July 12, 2013, 10:22 GMT

    @Rowayton actually thought Rogers was not out myself, and said so at the time. I don't blame Erasmus for not overturning it (because the evidence was inconclusive) but Dharmasena shouldn't have given it in the first place, imho. Right arm around to a left-hander, hitting him in front of leg, that's too much doubt for the umpire to give it. If anything Starc's was closer, left arm over, swinging it back in, it's actually more likely to hit the stumps.

    Don't think England have necessarily had the rough end of the bad decisions. There were bad decisions, however, against both teams, and lessons to be learned.

  • Suraj on July 12, 2013, 10:21 GMT

    A well deserved half century for Kevin Pietersen. Now he needs to move on and get a bigger score for the Brits.. GO KP GO...

  • Bob on July 12, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    @ JG2704 on (July 12, 2013, 8:07 GMT)... Of course I made errors as an umpire.. no-one is perfect and the man who never made a mistake never did anything.. But as is the case with all umpiring errors, each wrong decision goes for one side and against the other, but they never ever cancel themselves out.. Each incorrect decision simply adds to the total number..There are no pluses and minuses. A mistake is a mistake and in umpiring, it cannot be undone. The best umpires are those who make the least mistakes because the one who makes none has yet to set foot on a cricket field. The worst ones are those who try to atone for a wrong decision against one side by making another for the same side..and we've all come across plenty of those in out time..

  • Jason on July 12, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    @Srini_Chennai, the reason hotspot didnt show anything is becasue the operator forgot it set the camera up, and so the evidence was inconclusive, hence the debate is whether the Off fiedl umpire (sat in a bunker) had enough evidence to overrule the onfield umpire.

    And thats the clarification that England are seeking for from the ICC.

  • Dummy4 on July 12, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    What a very humble young man Mr Agar is- his innings was phenomenal!! And as for that smile- showed huge passion and respect for the great game- very well done Mr Agar you are an inspiration!