Day Two of the first Ashes Test in Nottingham on Thursday was special for 19-year-old Australian Test debutant Ashton Agar. The left-arm spinner scored 98 to set a record for the highest individual innings by a No. 11 batsman in Tests, eclipsing Tino Best's 95 for the West Indies vs England at Edgbaston in 2012. Zaheer Khan's 75 vs Bangladesh at Dhaka in 2004-05 is the third highest by a No. 11 batsman in Tests.
With their 163-run stand, Agar and Phil Hughes (81 not out) set a world record for the tenth-wicket partnership in Tests, obliterating the 151 between BF Hastings and Richard Collinge for New Zealand versus Pakistan at Auckland in 1972-73. Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed had also shared 151 for Pakistan vs South Africa at Rawalpindi in 1997-98.
The man who gave Agar his Test cap at Trent Bridge was former Aussie great Glenn McGrath. He believes Agar's amazing innings may have saved Australia from back-to-back Ashes series humiliation. McGrath held the previous Australian record for the highest individual score for a No.11 with 61 against New Zealand in 2004.
McGrath had never met Agar before he presented him the Baggy Green at Trent Bridge on Wednesday. "I looked up his stats and noticed he was born one month before I made my debut for Australia (1993). So that made me feel a little bit old," McGrath said. "All I said to him is it's a very proud moment and an honour...And whatever the situation, have that mental strength and never give up because you never know. And he's gone out there with no nerves, and looked a very confident young fella. And that's what I like about him."
The media has spoken highly about Agar, who has Sri Lankan family connections. Here's a collection of reactions on the youngster:
Paul Hayward - Daily Telegraph: The greatest innings by a No. 11 batsman in Test cricket was also one of the finest in Ashes history, because it arrived from the bat of a 19-year-old with his team dangling at 117 for nine. Add those extra elements of youth and pressure to a swashbuckling knock of 98 and Ashton Charles Agar was guaranteed a place in folklore 24 hours after taking delivery of his Baggy Green cap.
Mike Selvey - Guardian: Only two days in and already this series has contained enough drama, twists and turns for HBO to have commissioned it for a box set. If Wednesday brought mayhem under gloomy skies as the bowlers ran riot, the second sunlit day provided a cricket story of a kind unmatched as long as Tests have been played. Barely 24 hours previously Ashton Agar, a teenager not even included among Australian pen portraits in the match programme, had been one of the longest shots ever to be selected for an Ashes Test as he was presented with his cap by Glenn McGrath. That status has changed somewhat: from anonymity he finds himself one of the most celebrated of Australians. How swiftly can such things happen.
Mike Atherton - The Times: Careers and reputations are made and broken in Ashes cricket. Yesterday, 19-year-old Ashton Agar, hitherto unknown in England, made certain that his name would go down in Ashes folklore when he hauled the Australian team off their knees. Agar propelled them not only to a first-innings lead, but a position of considerable strength. It was the kind of innings whose effects may be long-lasting.
Greg Baum - The (Melbourne) Age: As Stan McCabe compiled a masterful 232 in an Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in 1938, Don Bradman summoned teammates to the balcony of the unprepossessing Edwardian pavilion, saying that they would never see anything like this again. On Thursday Michael Clarke must have importuned his charges to pause in their wound-licking and join him on the selfsame balcony to watch Ashton Agar play an innings that surely no one will see again. When it was done, he even could have offered Agar the same salutation that Bradman did McCabe: "If I could play an innings like that, I'd be a proud man."