Selectors weighed up Ashton Agar's batting strengths and bowling weaknesses
- Courtesy: The Australian
- August 02, 2013
Yet Agar's axing was not as obvious as it may appear after selectors wrestled for some time debating his batting strengths as much as his bowling weaknesses.
It is understood many influential judges, including some selectors, have rated Agar's fluid strokeplay as being within the team's top handful of batsmen.
But a genuine fear that Australia won't capture enough wickets without bolstering the bowling, already weakened by the injury of James Pattinson, meant Agar's name was crossed out.
Of course Agar was only ever selected as the surprise spin bowler, a selection that was so audacious it caught the England team unawares before the first Test, and his gifted and swashbuckling innings of 98 to bring respectability to Australia's first innings was considered a mighty bonus.
Ostensibly, Agar has struggled to fulfil the role for which he was anointed – to take scalps – and while unlucky not to have captured a third wicket, his two wickets for 124 runs has been too expensive.
Even the last-minute notes from spin king Shane Warne at Old Trafford on the eve of the match didn't save Agar. Warne's former teammate Michael Slater joked on his radio show about Warne's dubious influence: "He (Agar) doesn't know how much he will learn in that session – it will be a tweeting lesson, it will be a texting lesson, it will be a races groping lesson. It will be phenomenal."
It may be that Agar eventually proves to be a linchpin of a new generation of Australian batting. He has quickly become the new poster boy for Cricket Australia and a household name in an instant.
He has shown attacking strength, as his debut at the crease amply illustrated, but he has also demonstrated patience and defensive capabilities.
While amassing just 14 for his second Trent Bridge innings, he faced 71 balls. Indeed, it could be argued that both his dismissals at Lord's were unlucky – an over-eager run-out and a questionable third umpiring decision in which he was given out caught when the Hot Spot technology did not detect an edge.
His batting, honed in the front yard while facing the terror of two younger brothers from 6m away, looks respectable. He averages 32.5 for the series, and has the second-highest (behind Shane Watson) run rate per 100 balls faced.
But at the end of the day the selectors weren't about to name two spinners for Old Trafford, even though captain Michael Clarke was extolling the "fantastic job" Agar had done. Nathan Lyon was clearly in and as a consequence, Agar, the experimental selection that hadn't failed but hadn't quite delivered the required results, was sidelined.
So just as his small team of supporters go home – his parents back to work in Melbourne, girlfriend Madi to their Perth home and his two younger brothers to their schooling – Agar will be confronting the very lonely, and perilous existence of being an international cricketer.
He has been joined on the outer by a man he barely knew several weeks ago, Phil Hughes, whose batting has collapsed as quickly as his self-confidence was shattered. After standing aside to allow Agar to control that last-wicket partnership at Trent Bridge, Hughes tallied an unbeaten 81, but ensuing figures of 0, 1 and 1 were too horrendous for the selectors to ignore.
Hughes has been shifted around the batting order – from six to four and then in a tour match against Sussex, he opened with a sterling 84.
Hughes said earlier in the week that he didn't mind where he came into bat, but spoke of the mental frustration adapting to the different roles. He carefully suggested that being an opener was his preferred position.
But he, like Agar, was always going to be in a vulnerable position when the selectors wanted to find a vacancy to inject David Warner