First Test – Day 2: Agar the Awesome

At the moment, footy is secondary in my mind, due to an event taking place in the land of Poms, THE ASHES. The event is so important to me that I write the words with caps lock on.  Seriously, that means respect. Normally, only severe anger and emotions, or Richmond footy players get the honour of being written in caps. THE ASHES  are very seriously taken in my household. Dad and I take it seriously because we both devour any sport (apart from Thugby), especially cricket and footy, my little brother takes it seriously because he devours sport and enjoys having a later bedtime and Mum probably doesn’t take it seriously, due to the yawning menfolk around her, and because she can’t watch DVD’s of Rob Lowe in the “West Wing” when a TEST MATCH (lookie lookie, caps lock!) is in play.

So far, this match has definitely dragged Poms’ and Aussies’ attention to Trent Bridge, what with the converted FIRST TEST in play, and the heroic 98 scored by of 19-year-old Australian tweaker Ashton Agar, and yet, it’s only day 2! There are many people across Australia with match sticks in their eyes and/or having a sink full of empty coffee mugs, and I am starting to enjoy this atmosphere. My tiny little backyard oval is now in cricket mode, with stumps, fielders in the shape of broken skateboards, rebound nets and trees and a proper pitch, damp and springy, yet both brother and I have played a match of  ‘Chappell Rules’ cricket – a match where you must take ten wickets to bat, playing with 11 actual players posing as fielders (mostly trees) and ourselves when batting or bowling. This is all recorded in a little scorebook . So temporarily, the footy is placed at the top of the sports basket, waiting for the end of THE ASHES to come, releasing another wave of footy obsession to sweep through our house.

While everybody’s attention is focused on Ashton Agar, the general public have forgotten the other players in the match who have also played well, but admittedly not as well as Agar. Those players are Steve Smith, Peter Siddle, Phil Hughes and Jimmy Anderson.

Steve Smith’s 50 was a piece of very good cricket; his strokeplay was excellent, he was well-balanced, and he looked in form. Although he has an unorthodox way of playing (look at his backlift!) it works for him, and Wednesday and Thursdays batting from him was very good to watch. He was undone by an absolute pearler of an outswinger from Anderson that took the edge of his bat, and flew to Matt Prior. A bit unlucky, after a nice innings.

Peter Siddle bowled fantastically well after a dodgy first 4 overs. As the most experienced bowler in the side, he has a lot of pressure to bowl well, and he definitely exceeded those expectations. Watching from the darkened TV room, his beautiful late swinger yorker on opener Joe Root was breathtaking to watch. He looks a natural quick bowler, with a fantastic action and great consistency with the ball. The wickets of Trott, Pieterson, Bell, Root and Prior were crucial, and Siddle was the one to get rid of them. He was the best player in the 1st innings of the game.

Phil Hughes made a wonderful 81 not out in a fantastic partnership with Agar, but the number 11’s innings overshadowed Hughes’. He stuck around while wickets tumbled at the other end where Jimmy Anderson was swinging the ball like a ping-pong ball on a windy day, then made a spectacular rearguard innings with the debuting Agar. He certainly would have made a century if he was in for longer. By the way, he hit a four of Stuart Broad charging at the fast bowler, which he hasn’t done since his debut against South Africa, where he made centuries frequently.

When Australia were already looking a bit dodgy, it was Jimmy Anderson who came on and got rid of Rogers, Clark, Smith, Siddle and Starc in a spell of fast swing bowling that nearly destroyed Australia’s chances of winning the first test. His ingenious strategy of hiding the ball from the batsmen provided a perfect cover for inswingers and outswingers that decimated most of Australia’s middle to lower order. He would have got about as much positive press as Siddle if not for Agar and Hughes.

And now a final message to young Ashton Agar: Congratulations on bringing the team back from the brink, we were just about to switch off the telly. Now, if you don’t mind, can you take about 7 wickets in this innings? You did twice in our backyard cricket game. Cheers!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              P.S: Can you open the batting?


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