Ashton Agar sets sights on floating allrounder role
Ashton Agar wants to be as good as he can at everything. He wants to be adaptable, to be able to pad up at any time for his side, and be the floater who can go bang from the first ball.
Agar introduced himself to the world in 2013 as a 19-year-old left-arm spinner who smacked a 98 on Test debut, while batting at No. 11, on an Ashes tour. His career didn't quite take off from there as expected. He has played only 26 international games so far, and has only become a limited-overs regular in recent times.
Agar found a place in the ODI side that toured England in June, as one of two main spinners along with Nathan Lyon. While the series was catastrophic for an Australia side that was well below full strength, Agar was one of the few players who came out of it with something to smile about. While the rest of the batting order floundered, Agar, at No. 7, was Australia's second-highest scorer in the first two ODIs, slamming quick forties in both games. And in a series where England made the highest ODI total of all time, he was one of only three Australian bowlers to concede less than six runs an over.
On Saturday, in the match against South Africa A in Bengaluru, Agar walked in with five balls left in the innings, with Australia A 304 for 5. He faced just four balls, and hit one four and two sixes to finish on 17 not out. Later, he was instrumental in repelling a spirited South Africa A chase, taking 1 for 36 in his ten overs.
In his side's defeat to India A on Thursday, Agar top-scored with a 40-ball 34 after coming in at 76 for 5. He went after Mohammed Siraj, who had been the Australians' chief tormentor, hitting five fours off him.
"I think it's important for me to come in and go from ball one like today," Agar said after the win against South Africa A. "I love batting just as much as I love bowling, and I'm trying to be as good as I can in everything."
In the final of the Trans-Tasman T20I tri-series against New Zealand earlier this year, Australia pushed Agar up to No. 3, but the promotion did not work as planned, and he was out stumped for 2. He was brought up to No. 5 in the fourth ODI against England in the ill-fated series in June, and he made a 15-ball 19 in the midst of another middle-order collapse.
"When I was with Middlesex [playing the Vitality Blast] last month, I was working in the nets on six-hitting, and to come in and try and finish an innings," Agar said, when asked if he sees himself capable of batting anywhere in the order. "For me it's really important for my batting to be adaptable so I can be used in any situation."
Agar made a Test comeback after four years in the two Tests in Bangladesh last year as a second frontline spinner behind Nathan Lyon. He picked up seven wickets at an average of 23.14, but perhaps the highlight of his tour was his unbeaten 41 in the first Test, which helped Australia claw back from 124 for 7 to an eventual first-innings total of 217.
With Australia's full tour of the UAE, to play Pakistan, approaching, Agar is back in the reckoning as a spin option - as an allrounder with a decent amount of experience, both with the Test side and Australia A, in Asia.
"Personally, it's a big series for me to try and push my case to go to the UAE. To be honest, I haven't thought much about UAE," Agar said. "It's worked nicely for me that way the last couple of years. I think just to bowl well in these conditions and try and formulate some good plans against good players of spin will be important if I do get picked."