Todd Ferguson was enjoying the Oxfordshire sunshine in his weekday role as a landscape gardener when he received a text from the secretary at Henley CC informing him that the gangly teenager who took a hat-trick against North Mymms in the Home Counties Premier League in late May had just been presented with his Baggy Green cap by Glenn McGrath at Trent Bridge and would be making one of the more unlikely Ashes debuts.
Smiling and carefree
The 19-year-old Ashton Agar’s sensational knock on Test debut on Thursday lifted the Australia camp depressed after a batting blowout. The ever-smiling and free-swinging player, already compared to Daniel Vettori for his potential, is likely to revive discussions of romance in Tests. Handed the Baggy Green by Glenn McGrath, Agar broke the pace legend’s Australian record score for a No 11 - 61. He went on to break the overall record, top-scoring with 98.
As an old sparring partner of Darren Lehmann in South Australia, Ferguson was not wholly surprised by the startling rise of Agar. “As soon as we saw Ashton down at Henley I said to a few of the guys that I wasn’t sure how long he’d be with us, because I thought he had something that Boof [Lehmann] would like,” said Ferguson, who came to England in 2006 and now doubles as coach and wicketkeeper at the Brakspear Ground.
Agar was sent to England in the spring by Cricket Australia as one of the first batch of six "Hampshire Scholars" - the south coast county having volunteered, rather unpatriotically, to aid the development of talent for the old enemy. "We knew he was going to be heading off with the Australia A team some time in June for some games in Scotland and Ireland. But coming off the ground after he took his hat-trick - all lbws and arm balls, funnily enough - he told the boys he didn’t want to go home, he was enjoying it so much."
According to the Australian media, Agar’s disbelieving family of two younger brothers had to scramble for their flights to England and reached Nottingham on the morning of the Test, in time to see their beaming son receive the Baggy Green from McGrath.
His mother Sonia, who is of Sri Lankan origin, and father John, had not in their wildest dreams expected their son, who only made his first-class debut this year and played 10 FC games, would be considered over the likes of Nathan Lyon.
After Thursday though, his batting order rather than his place in the playing XI will be more in discussion.