Australia were saved by a teenager. No doubt about it.
Ashton Agar’s 98 and Phillip Hughes 81*, ensured Australia got a slender lead and were saved from the depths of being nearly 100 behind with three and a half days to play. Everyone is talking about the young man, Agar, but it is very important to remember that the Australian top order spectacularly failed, and even with his heroics, it isn’t as if they are bossing the game.
They have some momentum, and they are in a decent position ahead of day three, but they are not dominating.
When Ashton Agar came to the crease, Australia were 117-9, which was 98 behind. If he had got out, England would have been in their second innings on day two, with the momentum. As it turned out, Agar and Hughes’ partnership and put them 65 ahead, and fair play to them. They were spectacularly cool and calm, even if England’s bowling was erratic and ill-controlled.
The fact of the matter is that Australia were utterly defeated at the top by a two man attack.
James Anderson and Steven Finn reduced Australia to 108-5, and Australia then further collapsed too 117-9 with the help of Swann.
It took a freak piece of brilliance from Agar to rescue Australia and it is no good to sugar coat Australia’s performance through Agar. Sure, one can say it is all ok and it turned out fine, but this isn’t going to happen every time and the failings of the top order were a mixture of being outclassed by the pace of Finn and the swing of Anderson, and giving it away.
Ed Cowan and Shane Watson were both out driving, Brad Haddin out playing against the spin, Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers to good swing bowling. Nobody is talking about Cowan or Watson. Nobody is even talking about Hughes’ excellent innings. It’s all about one player.
Australia are sidetracked and have a false sense of securirty that they have been saved. Well they havn’t yet. They are not on top of the game. It has been dragged back from being a catastrophe at 117-9 to being 65 ahead, and now England lead by 15. It’s very much in the balance for both teams.
The innings of a 19 year old saved their blushes and gave Australia momentum. They are not in a great position still, and as we have seen from this England side so often, they fight and let their bats do the talking. Having Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook will really test this Australian seam attack, and will show up their cracks. Currently England lead by 15 runs with 8 wickets remaining but importantly it is only day three.
Cook can bat for a long time as we all know, and Pietersen can tear apart any side, especially spin. He has destroyed much better bowlers than Agar in particular. Any kind of considerable lead, such as 300 plus, and Graeme Swann on day four will be a seriously difficult challenge.
Australia are riding the wave of Agar and pretending they are in a strong position, especially after Starc’s two wickets, but it is fairly clear they are still very much in the contest, not on top of it. They have a lot to do before they can relax.