Straight after his incredible debut innings, a smiling Ashton Agar wandered over to his parents in the second row of the New Stand at Trent Bridge and apologised for falling two runs short of becoming the first No.11 in the history of Test cricket to score a century.
His family – father John Ashton, mother Sonia and brothers Will and Wesley – were probably the least surprised people in Nottingham at 19-year-old Agar’s batting heroics, which swept up even the most ardent England supporters in what had suddenly become Ashton’s Ashes.
”I had every confidence in him. He is very level headed,” said John, a former club cricketer for Prahran, Victoria, who runs a small heating and contracting business in Bentleigh. ”He has a motto that is no fear and play with freedom. If you look at that innings today, it was two of his things: play with freedom and no fear. He plays his cricket that way.”
The family quickly arranged flights from Melbourne to Heathrow when Agar phoned to say he’d been picked for the first Test, arriving in Nottingham just in time to see Glenn McGrath present him with a brand new Baggy Green. If that didn’t jolt them out of jetlag, 98 in 101 balls to rescue Australia from a desperate position did.
”We knew on Monday that he got the nod and we booked a flight Tuesday morning and flew out in the afternoon and arrived here five minutes before the handover [of the Baggy Green.] I didn’t even have time to get my shoes on. It was rush, rush, rush,” John said.
Agar lingered on the field at Trent Bridge with his family after play and was mobbed by Australian supporters describing his dream debut at a press conference. He and his brothers, both promising junior cricketers, were bred on ”full-on cricket, take no prisoners” in the driveway at home, where they played until dark. Sonia was born in Colombo and Agar credits his Sri Lankan heritage with his natural style, whether batting or bowling.
Will, 17, described his brother as ”really chilled”, while Wesley described his achievement as ”the most exciting thing ever”.Agar’s parents, who woke to ”teenaged rampage” headlines in the UK on Friday, backed his decision to leave Melbourne to fast-track his career in Western Australia last summer. ”We would never stand in his way,” John said. ”He made that choice at 18. It is a big decision at that age because it is a long way to go.”
Agar need not have apologised for missing out on a century. ”Look, you get a hundred, fine, if you don’t it is still a great effort,” his father said. ”I am not disappointed. He will get a hundred. It will come. It doesn’t have to happen today, he can wait.” The family will fly back to Melbourne after the first Test, leaving Agar to live his Ashes dream.
Agar’s favourite Ashes memory is recorded on a DVD called A Perfect Day. Now, a decade after watching Steve Waugh reach his century off the last ball of the day against England at the SCG, Agar has etched an (almost) perfect day of his own into Ashes history.
Still smiling after his scarcely believable knock of 98 from 101balls, Agar said he had no reason to be disappointed at missing out on a century on debut. ”One of my favourite Ashes moments was Steve Waugh hitting four runs off the last ball of the day to make his hundred, and to make a hundred in an Ashes Test would have been awesome. But I’m very happy,” he said.
”Darren Lehmann told me to bat the way I know how to bat. He’s told the whole team to bat in their natural styles. That’s what I tried to do, take the game on. I’ve done it before. In Queensland I had to bat at No.10 and was fortunate enough to get 50.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.