Ashton Agar: six facts to learn about new Aussie cricket hero
The 19-year-old Australian hero of Trent Bridge was still playing club cricket two months ago
AUSTRALIAN cricket has a new hero in the form of Ashton Agar, the 19-year-old spin bowler who wrote his name into Ashes folklore with an extraordinary debut innings of 98 today. The teenager came into bat at number 11 with his team in disarray at 117-9, but together with Phillip Hughes helped give Australia a crucial first innings lead of 65.
Records tumbled during his remarkable stay at the crease and the Cricinfo statistics website even crashed under the strain of keeping up with the milestones.
He was eventually caught in the deep, trying to reach his century off the bowling of Stuart Broad. But although he fell agonisingly short of what would have been one of the greatest Test centuries ever, he was given a huge standing ovation by the Trent Bridge crowd.
He re-wrote the record books as he registered not only his best first class score but also the highest-ever Test score by a number 11. He and Hughes also put on a Test record 163-run 10th wicket partnership.
Here are six things you almost certainly won't know about the teenage prodigy:
He was playing club cricket in May: He's not a complete novice, but Agar only made his debut for Western Australia this year and began the English season playing 50-over cricket for Henley in the Home Counties Premier League. He was given an 'internship' on the doomed Australian tour of India in the spring and was added to the Australia A squad in June. When coach Darren Lehmann took over the first team, he called Agar into the Ashes squad and handed him a shock debut.
He wanted to be a lawyer: His future would now appear to be in cricket, but Agar had planned to become a lawyer if his sporting career failed to take off. The teenager grew up in Melbourne, won a place to study law at Deakin University in Victoria, but put his studies on hold to pursue his cricketing dreams - a decision that appears to have paid off.
He has Sri Lankan heritage: Ashton's maternal grandfather was Sinhalese and played cricket for Dharmarajah College in Kandy. His Australian father represented a league side in Melbourne. Former Aussie spinner Ashley Mallett told the Melbourne Age that his background "may have something to do with his smooth and natural way of spinning a ball". He explained: "In Sri Lanka the spinners bowl naturally. They are not over-coached." Others have likened him to New Zealand bowler Daniel Vettori. But although he is considered a bowler, it's his batting that has made his name.
He is young, but confident: Agar had not even been born when Shane Warne announced himself to England with the 'Ball of the Century' against Mike Gatting in 1993. However, his innings against England has made just as big an impression as Warne's fizzing leg-break and could help make him as iconic a figure. Agar probably won't be fazed. He was presented with his 'Baggy Green' cap by another Australian great, Glenn McGrath, on Wednesday, and had the temerity to high-five the legendary fast bowler.
He needs a new nickname: According to the Daily Telegraph, Agar's team-mates at Henley christened him 'Scotty' because of his likeness to Australian golfer Adam Scott, who won the US Masters earlier this year. If that is fairly uninspiring, the Cricket Australia website is even less inventive - it says his nickname is Ash. A rather better effort has already been coined by England fans, who have swiftly dubbed him 'Agar the 'Orrible' in tribute to the old newspaper cartoon about a Viking.
He's got two younger brothers: Ashton may not be the only Agar to torment England. His younger brothers Wes, 16, and Will, 17, are also pretty handy cricketers. Like him they are making their way through the Cricket Victoria elite junior system. They and Ashton's parents, Sonia and John, flew to England to see his debut when they found out he was playing two days before the match. They arrived at Trent Bridge just in time to see him collect his cap from McGrath.