At lunch on the final day of the first Ashes Test, the action couldn’t have been more tightly poised—Australia needed 20 runs, England just a solitary wicket.
James Anderson ultimately struck the decisive blow to secure a 14-run win for the hosts in a topsy-turvy Test that saw three players stand out from the rest.
Ashton Agar (Australia)
We’ll be talking about Ashton Agar’s first international knock for years to come—especially if he goes on to become an Australian great. His total of 98, a Test record for a No. 11, propelled him into Ashes folklore before his career had barely begun.
It’s a story bordering on fantasy, albeit without the happy ending, given Agar was playing for little-known Henley Cricket Club just weeks prior to the opening Test as well as specialising as a bowler.
He stepped into the cauldron of an Ashes Test and singlehandedly pulled Australia back into contention. He embarrassed arguably the world’s strongest bowling lineup, and the only negative was his failure to convert his heroics into a deserved century.
The collective sigh of relief from Trent Bridge when Alastair Cook pulled a loose second-innings Agar shot into his clutches highlighted the impact of the little-known youngster. Even when returning to the pavilion after an abject score, by his lofty standards, of 14, Agar had still scored higher than three of his more experienced colleagues.
James Anderson (England)
Is there anyone better at tearing through the middle and bottom order than James Anderson? On this display, absolutely not. With Stuart Broad nursing a damaged shoulder during Australia’s first innings and Steven Finn’s near capitulation, Anderson steadied the wobbling ship to steer England to victory.
Had captain Alastair Cook pulled him from the attacking lineup on the final morning, England would have fallen to defeat. His 10 wickets dwarfed the contribution of his teammates, and he’s already firmly on the path to claiming the man of the series award.
His ability to capitalise on momentum and dismiss batsman one after the other is crucial to England’s hopes. And any accusations that he doesn’t take big wickets were dispelled when he bowled the final delivery to dismiss the immovable Brad Haddin as Australia scented victory.
Ian Bell (England)
England have one man to thank for saving their second innings. Well two actually after umpire Aleem Dar inexplicably failed to spot Stuart Broad’s edge, but for now the plaudits should go solely to Ian Bell. His century got the home side’s Test back on track and was the only triple-figure score in the entire match.
He had a scare or two, surviving an lbw shout before being dropped, but on a tricky wicket he dug in and led England to a respectable total when they were in danger of capitulating.
The million dollar question of course still remains: Had Broad walked would England have won the first Test? Probably not, but Bell’s resilience to the Australian attack was commendable and proved that England have strength in the batting order behind Cook and Jonathan Trott.