Nottingham: Australia coach Darren Lehmann forecast "outstanding" teenage sensation Ashton Agar would come into the game "more and more" after the left-arm spinner was handed a shock Test debut in the Ashes opener at Trent Bridge.
Agar, a 19-year-old Western Australia left-arm spinner, was only brought to England originally as a "development player" for the first two Ashes Tests. But in a dramatic move involving Australia chairman of selectors John Inverarity, on tour selector and wicketkeeping great Rodney Marsh and Lehmann himself, Agar was preferred Wednesday instead of off-spinner Nathan Lyon, a veteran of 22 Tests.
The stunning selection did not leak from the tourists` camp until fast bowling great Glenn McGrath was seen handing Agar his `Baggy Green` cap, in a traditional presentation ceremony for Australia players making a Test debut, shortly before Wednesday`s toss.
"The boys were good, they knew two days ago so we just had to see if they could keep it quiet and they did," Lehmann, appointed only just over a fortnight before this match after South African Mickey Arthur was sacked as Australia coach, said.
"For a 19-year-old kid, it`s great," added Lehmann, a former Australia batsman. "He`s excited and you saw him when Glenn McGrath presented him with his cap, he had a tear in his eye and it`s a big moment for him."Just as England believe off-spinner Graeme Swann can play a key role against Australia because his stock ball turns away from left-handed batsmen, of whom there are several in the tourists` line-up, so the fact England`s top-order is mainly made up of right-handers helped boost Agar`s case.
"We went for a left-arm spinner to take it away from all their right-handers," explained Lehmann after a day where Agar sent down seven wicketless overs, albeit for just 24 runs, in overcast conditions ideal for seam rather than spin bowling.
"He was nervous on Wednesday -- you`d expect that on the first day of an Ashes series. As the wicket wares, he`ll come into the game more and more," Lehmann insisted.
Melbourne-born Agar came to prominence during the last Australian season by taking 31 first-class wickets at a shade under 30 apiece in his debut Sheffield Shield campaign for Western Australia.
Lehmann, then coach of Queensland, was impressed. "I`ve seen him bowl a lot last year in Shield cricket and I think he`s an outstanding prospect. He knows he has a lot of work to do and that`s OK. We were happy to take the chance with him with all their right handers. He gets it in the right area and he can bowl."
For the 25-year-old Lyon, who ever since the squad was announced has had to cope with suggestions that Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed, recently granted Australian citizenship, might jump ahead of him in the queue for an Ashes place, Agar`s selection must surely have been a shattering blow.
However, Lehmann said: "He`s been outstanding, the way he took it, and he`s going to play a part in this Ashes series as well, there`s no doubt about that."