John Townsend: The rise and rise of Ashton Agar, teen spinner with his feet on ground

The Aussie Angle: Just over a year ago he was playing second XI club cricket

Ashton Agar is getting used to meteoric change. Two days ago he was an expectant teenager preparing to travel to South Africa to further his cricket education with Australia A. Today, he is an unexpected element in Australia's attempt to reclaim the Ashes.

Given that England appear set to produce dry pitches all summer to provide a fertile environment for their own world-class spinner Graeme Swann, Agar harbours prospects of remaining in the team after making a shock debut at Trent Bridge.

The 16th teenager to play for Australia and the second-youngest spinner since fellow 19-year-old Gerry Hazlitt made his first appearance more than a century ago, Agar was hardly over-awed by his entry to Test cricket.

His first delivery might have gone for four, courtesy of a crisp Jonathan Trott cover drive to a ball that hung in the air for a moment too long, but thereafter there was little to suggest that he was out of his depth.

Yet he had bowled just 400 overs in adult cricket when he came to England to play for Henley several months ago and that inexperience was also evident in his two brief spells that sketched his promise without delivering anything more significant.

Agar has been in an elevator to the top of Australian cricket for the past 12 months.

Just over a year ago, he was playing second XI cricket for the Melbourne club team Richmond when he took up an offer to move to Perth in an attempt to strengthen Western Australia's limited spin stocks.

Several months later, and due to a shoulder injury to the two-Test spinner Michael Beer, Agar was elevated into the WA team.

Runs followed, then wickets, and it was soon apparent that WA had a special, though raw and untried, talent.

It was one that attracted the eye of the national selector John Inverarity, who saw the young bowler at close range when he umpired a State practice match early last summer. Inverarity was a successful left-arm spinner himself and knows what it takes to succeed in the art of beguiling batsmen with flight and pace and spin.

Inverarity was also planning ahead and knew that Australia's effort to wrest back the Ashes would require a slow bowler capable of denying runs to England's potent top order but with the firepower to sting them as well.

Agar had other qualities that appealed to Inverarity, who remains a strong advocate for cricketers having balance in their lives as well as the ability to bring different skills to the team.

Agar had them all. A law student who put his studies on hold to concentrate on his fledgling playing career, Agar also bats robustly, fields with vigour and brings the enthusiasm of a youngster who can still barely believe that Christmas is coming every day.

WA and Australia have been seeking to fast-track Agar's cricket education since he moved to Perth.

He travelled with the local Twenty20 franchise Perth Scorchers on their ill-fated Champions League trip to South Africa last October but confined his activities to the essentially orthodox – net bowling during the day and a quiet meal at night.

Then, after his promising start for the Warriors, when he claimed 19 wickets in five Sheffield Shield matches as well scoring two half-centuries, he was added to the Australian squad that travelled to India in February.

Agar's role was ostensibly as a net bowler but he impressed so much in that role that the merits of a remarkable Test debut were debated by the national selection panel.

That didn't happen, perhaps for the good, given the slaughter inflicted on the Australian attack, but the taste of international cricket did nothing to affect Agar's equilibrium.

"There has been a bit of hype around but I will just try to keep my feet on the ground and strive to do my best for WA," he said on his return to Perth. Now he will attempt the same for Australia.

John Townsend is Cricket Writer at 'The West Australian'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?