A see-sawing second day in the opening Ashes test in which Australian teenage debutant Ashton Agar make the highest score by a No. 11 batsman in a record last-wicket stand ended with England reaching 80-2 for a lead of 15 runs.
England captain Alastair Cook was 37 not out and Kevin Pietersen unbeaten on 35 at stumps Thursday in a painstakingly slow stand of 69 off 213 balls at Trent Bridge.
Earlier, Agar hit 98 from 101 balls with two sixes and 12 fours to break the previous mark by a No. 11 of 95 by Tino Best for West Indies against England last year and swung the momentum in Australia’s favor.
That came in a stand of 163 with Phillip Hughes (81 not out) as Australia recovered from 117-9 to 280 all out for a first-innings lead of 65.
It was a staggering turnaround for the tourists, who were crumbling at 117-9 following James Anderson’s five-wicket haul during the morning session.
Steve Smith made 53 but when he was caught behind off Anderson, who took 5-85, Australia lost 5-9 and were trailing by 98.
After resuming on 75-4 and with batting conditions significantly better than Wednesday, Smith reached his 50 with a cover drive for four off Graeme Swann in the 28th over.
The tourists seemed to be cruising but Smith’s gung-ho approach led to his downfall in the following over, when he played and missed at Anderson and then edged the next ball behind.
In the following over, Swann conjured an off break that bowled Brad Haddin for 1. In the next, Peter Siddle edged Anderson and fell to a diving one-handed catch by wicketkeeper Matt Prior for 1.
Swann dropped Starc in the same over but the batsman departed in Anderson’s next over, caught behind for a duck.
James Pattinson was plum lbw to Swann for 2, and his unsuccessful referral smacked of desperation.
Agar narrowly survived an umpire’s review for a stumping off Swann when he was on 6, before Jonathan Trott missed a difficult slip catch off Hughes. At that point, however, no one could predict how pivotal both moments would prove.
The fightback began when Agar lofted Swann for six over long-on in the 42nd over, and he played with an assurance that embarrassed his more senior colleagues, reaching 50 off 50 balls with a nudge for two off Anderson.
The session was extended, and Agar again hit Swann for six over mid-on before Hughes reached his 50 with a single off Anderson.
Agar cut Swann for four to level the scores, and Hughes drove Stuart Broad through the covers to give Australia a lead that had looked impossible after an hour of the morning session.
Before play, Broad passed a fitness test after receiving a blow to the shoulder while batting Wednesday. But he wasn’t asked to bowl until the final 10 minutes of the extended morning session, by which time it was England’s turn to look desperate.
England didn’t look like taking a wicket after lunch, and the duo broke the record for a last—wicket test stand of 151 when Agar pulled Broad for three runs.
That mark was set by Brian Hastings and Richard Collinge for New Zealand against Pakistan in 1973, and then matched by Pakistan’s Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed against South Africa in 1997.
Agar passed Best’s landmark with another three off Swann, but in the 65th over he holed out to Broad and was caught by Swann on the midwicket boundary.
Swann made a point of shaking Agar’s hand, and the batsman managed to smile as he walked off to a standing ovation.
England’s second innings got off to a disastrous start. Joe Root survived an early referral for lbw to Starc but fell in the last over before tea, caught behind by Haddin down the leg side.
Starc’s next ball hit Trott plum in front but there was a suspicion of an inside edge. Although he was given not out by umpire Aleem Dar, the decision was overturned on referral.
In evening session, the game finally settled into the sedate rhythm of a traditional test.
Pietersen edged Agar but the ball flew into Haddin’s pads, and England took the lead to leave the test perfectly balanced at stumps when Cook cover drove Agar for four in the 32nd.