The second day of the opening Ashes Test at Nottingham marked only the ninth occasion in Test history when the number eleven batsman top-scored in an innings. Ashton Agar, all of 19 years old, making his shock Test debut as a left-arm spinner stunned one and all with his batting genius. Coming in with his side in all sorts of strife at 117 for 9, Agar mesmerized the crowd as well as his own teammates and, possibly, even the opponents. By the time he was dismissed, he had made a name for himself even before he set out to bowl in the second innings.
During the course of his superb innings, Agar blasted 98 in 101 balls with the aid of 12 fours and two sixes. As a result of his brilliance he broke quite a few records. Agar’s 98 is the now the highest score by a Test number eleven on debut and also the highest ever by a number eleven batsman in Tests. Also, Agar featured in the highest ever tenth wicket partnership in Test cricket. He and Phillip Hughes, who remained unbeaten on 81, featured in a 163-run partnership for the last wicket.
Here’s a look at a few other instances when the number eleven batsmansurprisingly ended up as the top-scorer in a Test innings.
Bert Vogler (62 not out): In the first Test of series played between South Africa and England in 1906 at Cape Town, this South African top scored for his team in the side’s first innings. England batted first on the surface and were bowled out for a paltry 187. In reply, South Africa struggled their way to 239 for 9 before Vogler worked his magic. Vogler made 62 not out having batted for 75 minutes and hit five fours and three sixes as South Africa recovered to 333 all out. The next best score by a South African in the innings was 60 by Tip Snooke. South Africa went on to win the Test by an innings and 16 runs.
Frederick Spofforth (50): This was the fifth Test of the Ashes series played at Melbourne in March 1885. In the timeless Test, Australia batted first and were in all sorts of strife at 99 for 9. Further embarrassment was in store for them, but Spofforth ensured that there was some sort of respectability to the score. His half-century was scored in 70 minutes with the aid of four fours and a six, as Australia were bowled out for 163. England however went on to win the Test by an innings and 98 runs.
Steve Harmison (42): Another good knock by a number eleven that came in a losing cause. In the third Test of the series between England and South Africa in Cape Town in January 2005, the Englishmen were chasing a mammoth 501 to win in the last innings. Victory was out of sight for England, and they slipped to 253 for 9. Harmison’s run-a-ball 42 ensured they at least crossed the 300 mark. Harmison went down fighting, slamming seven fours and one six as South Africa won by 196 runs.
--By A Cricket Analyst