Surprisingly, two of the best batsmen in world cricket had a terrible 1st Ashes Test that proved to be another thriller. Alastair Cook, who scored 766 runs in the last Ashes series (2010-2011) and was adjudged Man of the Series, managed just 63 runs in both the innings at Edgbaston, while Michael Clarke, who has been in some incredible form since the beginning of 2012, disappointed with scores of 0 and 23. But the first Test had all the ingredients you expect when two of cricket’s biggest rivals play against each other.
Meanwhile, the first Test will be fondly remembered for two players - Stuart Broad and Ashton Agar.
A lot has been said whether Stuart Broad should have walked off after edging that delivery from Ashton Agar. My question is: How come an Aussie is a part of the debate? From Michael Clarke himself, to the legendary Ricky Ponting, Australia have been known for using all the means to make sure they win.
Keeping in mind the competitive cricket being played these days, Broad had every right to stay at the crease. Now many would say that Clarke didn’t even complain about Broad’s move, but that was because he himself has been a part of a few such instances which spoiled the spirit of the game. From edging Anil Kumble and standing at the crease to claiming a low catch at second slip that had touched the ground, Clarke has made cricket look ugly on a plenty of occasions.
But, the Aussies deserve a lot of praise for the character they showed at Edgbaston. When Agar was handed over his baggy green ahead of start of the play on Day 1, it shocked many experts who were left wondering whether the young bloke could handle pressure of such a crucial series.
But Ashton silenced everybody with a gutsy, record-breaking knock which was one of the best we have seen from a tail-ender in a very long time. When he came to bat in the first innings, Australia were 117/9 and Alastair Cook and his boys were jubilant with their incredible effort as Australia neared a paltry total. But then came Agar, who looked extremely confident at the crease, and he reminded us of the kind of attitude possessed by Steve Waugh-led invincible Australian team. At times he even counter-attacked to make the Poms realise, he wasn’t the one to see them off the whole day with a defensive play.
It is always a great move to give chance to a youngster in a big series. That lifts his confidence, and he wants to give all that he has to his team. Agar did exactly the same and won many hearts.
The only concern for me is whether Agar is the right replacement for Nathan Lyon, and whether Cricket Australia is treating their ‘best spinner after Shane Warne’ in the right manner?
Even in the India-Australia Test series, Nathan Lyon was dropped after the first Test in which he took four wickets, including that of Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar. In the second and the third Test, Lyon was replaced by Xavier Doherty, whom many thought was a limited overs specialist. The left-arm spinner went for plenty in the next two Tests and claimed just three wickets in four innings. Lyon was once again recalled in the squad for the final Test where he picked five wickets, this time dismissing Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar in both the innings.
Agar impressed with his batting skills in the first Ashes Test, but not to forget, he was included in the squad as a spinner and he managed to pick just two wickets in 42 overs. Australia need to make the best of the available resources and they shouldn’t treat Lyon in this manner - by including him in the squad only when the going gets tough.
Agar for sure has the nerves of steel, something which added to the excitement of the Edgbaston Test. But while Warner’s comeback is due, it is time for Cricket Australia to think whether they should reinstate Nathan Lyon for the second Test.