First Test – Day 2: Agar the Audacious

England 215 & 80/2 (43.0 ov), Australia 280, England lead by 15 runs with 8 wickets remaining

 

8:30pm – Clyde Hotel, Carlton

The Uni Blacks teams have just been read out for the upcoming weekend’s fixtures so finally the focus can switch to the cricket. With Smith having progressed to 50 and the Aussies having not lost a wicket, optimism abounds.

The group of us sitting around a large wooden table in front of the screen are making big predictions of bigger Aussie scores. The words are positive but the repeated touching of the table after each point betrays the facade.

The main point of concern seems to be that a Smith century will ensure that he’s in the side for the rest of the series.

Soon that is no longer an issue. Out for 53 and the front bar goes quiet.

Haddin comes to the crease. Back in the team for his experience apparently. Someone says that his straight play should work against Swann. Someone else mentions his dance down the wicket at 5/18 in Cape Town. The conversation doesn’t go much further as the King of Wishful Swinging is knocked over by a ripper from Swann.

A graphic on the screen shows the amount of revolutions on the ball. We’re content to gauge off the replay.

Before you know it, two more wickets fall. Each one brings groans, more expletives than there are photos on the walls, silence for the replay and more expletives.

Too much 20/20, pushing with hard hands, can’t play swing (Ashes 2010/11, Cape Town 2011/12, Leeds 2010), can’t play spin (India)

I hear the question asked, “Can this Agar bloke bat?” I answer, truthfully, that I’d read that he had made a 50 or two.

 

9ish – 9:15ish – Car Ride Home

Another wicket (Pattinson) falls. The BBC commentator (not Boycott or Aggers) states that this sort of collapse can ruin a series. He feels that such a debacle can destroy all confidence against a side that the Aussies may already see as superior. I didn’t feel the need to jot down his name.

5/9 in an hour. Australia now 9-117

 

9:20 – Couch

It’s clear as soon as I pull the foil off my dinner that Agar knows what he’s doing. His early couple of strokes indicate a decent technique yet still combined with a cavalier flair expected from a 19-year-old number 11 in his first test. When he’s on 6, he appears stumped by Prior. It goes upstairs and he’s given a let off. From where I sit he was pretty lucky but as a collective shrug of the shoulders occurs across 2 hemispheres, we move on.

And didn’t we move on….quickly.

With relaxed limbs and a blade as quiet as Beefy Botham’s commentary whenever one his drives trickled over the rope, Agar soon took advantage of England’s ‘just put it anywhere and let him get himself out’ approach. Using lofts over long-off, glides through the slips and ferocious pulls to the deep, he forced Phil Hughes into a less visible role and, to his credit, he acknowledged this and played along accordingly.

Unfortunately, this sort of modesty was absent from the Australian balcony with the players seemingly quite chuffed that a youngster was showing them up so. In fairness, all they could do was support their team-mate, so I shouldn’t be so harsh, but David Warner would be advised if you’re going to have the facial hair of a 1980’s pilot, you may as well act like one and hop on the next plane to South Africa and let your own rebel tour begin.

As Agar’s score grew, so did my Twitter feed and so did the excitement. Indeed, the only thing that didn’t grow was the volume from the Sky commentary box. That’s not necessarily a complaint though. The understated coverage is fairly welcoming and the fact that Agar was in the 70s or 80s before the camera panned to his family in the crowd is proof of this. If this had’ve been a home test, the host broadcaster would’ve had them sitting on a makeshift beach, eating KFC and fending off questions from Heels and Slats about which one of the Agar limited edition prints they would prefer Joel Madden to sign.

With his early 90s having been negotiated with more confidence than MC Hammer’s, and with the best ever score by a number 11 and best ever 10th wicket partnership in his kit bag, the lad with the new hashtag just needed 4 runs to get to the ton. A two was soon picked off with a glide down to 3rd man, leaving him a simple swot away. Those of us that saw Warnie in Perth had our fears but surely this would end differently. Surely it didn’t. A flush pull to deep square leg was snaffled by Swann and it was over.

As the dismissal was realised, the kid removed his helmet to reveal a beaming smile. Though celebratory grins are often seen, this was different. He wasn’t worried about having to bowl in the next innings, or that he may not get another chance, that he may now have expectations or that his manner may be scrutinized. . None of it. He had just played, and played brilliantly, and not thought about a thing but the ball. Now it was done. He’ll never be that free on a field again

Aussies all out for 280. In front by 65

 

3ish.. – Cheap red wine and cheaper chocolate headache setting in

What a start.

Starc on a hat-trick again and Nasser Hussian bleating about an LBW that all of his colleagues have already approved.

Root and Trott gone in consecutive balls, and I can’t see what the issue is with Trott’s dismissal. Nasser strikes me as one of those smarmy kids who used to get beaten up by the big kids in primary school, but when they left for high school, he would brag to the remaining ones, saying he had it over them all along.

But from there it’s been hard work. Cook knows how to bat all day and with KP always lifting for the Aussies, I still think we’ll struggle to stop them getting a lead that we can haul in.

The batting collapse shouldn’t be forgotten, and whilst Agar lifted a nation’s head off the couch, I’m not sure how it can inspire his teammates in practical terms. Of course, he should bat higher up next time but that batting order is still brittle. The form of Hughes should provide just as much solace. If he can play that anchoring role he did today, then surely the others can treat the ball with a bit more respect.

But there was only one name on everyone’s lips at the end of play. We had seen an innings that few of us will forget and it brought together the fan base like few before it in recent years. To see a humble young man seemingly step straight into the team after morning rowing practice was a delight. Hopefully he can get a few wickets to top it off.

Touch wood.

About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.

Comments

  1. Great stuff Andrew. I was watching events unfold across town at the All Nations with several other Knackers. I say thank you to Agar for restoring my faith in Test cricket. He gave it meaning last night, not because he nearly made a ton, but because he smiled all the way through it. What an extraordinary inning.

  2. Luke Reynolds says:

    Brilliant stuff Andrew. Some great lines in your report. It was a great ball by Swann but poorly played too by “the king of wishful swinging”. Just a wonderful day (again) of Test cricket.

  3. “David Warner would be advised if you’re going to have the facial hair of a 1980’s pilot, you may as well act like one and hop on the next plane to South Africa and let your own rebel tour begin.”… Terrific!

  4. Andrew Starkie says:

    Aah the Clyde. Scored a few and failed more often there back in the day.

    Brilliant Andrew.

    have we ever seen two better days of test cricket?

    I hate the Poms. Can i say that?

  5. Tony Roberts says:

    The references to Warner and the Channel Nine microbes were brilliant. I’m sure that they’re already lining up ‘Warns’ to join Heels, Slats and Binga in his (hopefully imminent) retirement. Don’t think that Agar will ever get a run in the Nine box, though – like Steve Waugh, he seems too much like their antithesis.

    But lay off the Sky commentators. Aside from Beefy’s congenital moaning (and he was actually far more laudatory of Agar than most allow), they are all class. That that includes Hussain, by the way. Despite being too ready to call some spades shovels, Nasser brings to his commentary the same clear-eyed honesty that dragged England back to credibility when he was their Test captain (putting in Australia at the Gabba in 2002 excepted).

  6. Ripsnorter says:

    I just heard that Tom Waterhouse has now installed Nathan Lyon as favourite for the best Male Actor Oscar after standing next to the coach and looking genuinely pleased that Agar was playing so well – a stirring performance under the circumstances.

  7. e.regnans says:

    Ripper report Andrew.
    Who knows what’s to come for this match or this young Agar?
    But both it and he have given us all a lot already.
    Wonderful, wonderful.
    So much to ponder.
    Will a bit more application will be embarrassed out of Watson/ Cowan/ Haddin as a consequence of watching Agar?
    Will Jimmy Anderson’s Amazing Swinging Magic Show continue in the 2nd dig?
    Will Nasser ever give credit where it is due?
    Will the English turn on themselves in they fail here?
    Will Agar get is first Test wicket?
    Will S.Broad develop a testosterone gland?
    Will Australia’s top 4 make enough runs?
    Will the English play the victim card (video referral decisions) to their own detriment?
    Will the penny drop for D.Warner?
    Will G.Swann clean up in the 4th innings?
    Ohboyohboyohboy.

  8. Peter Flynn says:

    Where to now for Agar?

    Hughes played well. Fair play to him.

  9. Flynny – after you left the watering hole we were yelling at the TV for Hughes to hold up one end so Agar could get on with batting. Hughes did the job. Looked like a heated up popcorn at the crease most of the time, but he hung in there.

    Good question: where to for Agar now? He says he wants to take 5 wickets! And he might!

  10. Wouldn’t Haddin be the king of swishful thinking?

  11. Peter Flynn says:

    Dips,

    It was pretty good.

    Did Rowd get on Agar for top score?

    Watto can’t bat like Cook and Pietersen last night.

    Seasoned pros the Poms.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Fantastic read Andrew if we have to put up with Haddin keeping can he at least
    Make some runs and Nasser stop whinging
    Agar has restored some Faith in Test Cricket and enjoyed Hughes reading the
    Game and playing his part but let’s not forget there are some huge holes in
    This Aust Team Cowan Watson etc

  13. Andrew Else says:

    Thanks all. It was a great evening’s viewing.

    Tony – I obviously didn’t explain myself well. Aside from Nasser, I find the Sky call refreshing, Beefy included.

  14. Tony Roberts says:

    Andrew
    We’ll have to agree to disagree on Nasser as a commentator. I liked him as England captain (and the fact that an Indian migrant became their captain), and felt that his autobiography was a great book, in a sports genre of ghost-written sludge and self-promotion. (Though he did write it himself, the best bit of Steve Waugh’s Besser-brick memoirs was the mercifully brief observations of his wife, Lynette.)

    Of later England captains. Vaughan presents as a snide jerk since going to TMS, and going by HIS efforts on Sky so far, Strauss has a big future writing management training manuals.

  15. Paddy Grindlay says:

    Great report.
    It seems that D. Warner has joined Chris Masten, Kade Simpson and Jake Batchelor in the sudden obsession for beards in Aussie sports.
    I await the handlebar mozzie!,

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