By Chris Devine and Callum Dent at Trent Bridge
James Anderson paid tribute to the “class and determination” of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen after England’s most experienced batsmen responded calmly to an astonishing debut innings from Ashton Agar in the first Investec Ashes Test.
Teenage left-arm spinner Agar compiled 98 - the highest score by a Test number 11 - and shared a scarcely-believable 163 with Phil Hughes to extend Australia’s first innings to 280 all out on day two at Trent Bridge.
That put the tourists 65 ahead and they subsequently strengthened their position when Mitchell Starc removed Joe Root and Jonathan Trott with successive balls, leaving England 11 for two at tea.
Faced with a perilous position, Cook and Pietersen dug in to share an unbroken 69 in 35 overs.
England therefore led by 15 at stumps and had reason to be grateful for two players boasting a combined total of more than 15,000 Test runs.
Anderson, who also shone by completing a wonderful five-wicket haul prior to Agar’s heroics, said: “It was a really tricky period for us losing two early wickets and I thought they (Cook and Pietersen) showed a lot of class and determination to get us through that tricky period. Hopefully they can build on that tomorrow.”
After jokingly suggesting 500 would represent a tricky chase for Australia, Anderson conceded it was difficult to assess how many second-innings runs England will require.
“I’m not sure really,” he continued. “The pitch doesn’t look to be deteriorating that much. We saw a few balls that spun from Swanny. Nothing from the seamers has really gone up or down.
“First and foremost we’ve got to bat very, very well tomorrow to get in any sort of position to win this game.”
Anderson drew laughter from the assembled journalists when asked if there was a time during Agar’s innings when he felt he was witnessing a special Ashes moment.
The seamer initially responded yes, before smiling and admitting: “Well, I probably didn’t think that, no! But I’m sure it will be looked back on as one.
“I thought he played brilliantly. In a pressure situation he coped with it really well and really did frustrate us for a while.
“Teams are allowed to play well; batters are allowed to put on partnerships. It’s our job to somehow try and break that partnership and show some skill to do it.
“That’s the nature of Test cricket. You get big momentum shifts.”
Agar admitted his record-breaking display exceeded his wildest dreams.
The 19-year-old, picked ahead of experienced tweaker Nathan Lyon, hit the headlines for his batting rather than his bowling after striking 12 fours and two maximums in a remarkable 102-ball innings.
Agar said: "It's a dream come true. Forever, I've dreamt of playing Test cricket for Australia.
"For my debut to start the way it has, I'm over the moon. Darren Lehmann just told me to bat the way I know how to bat.
"He's told the whole team to back their own natural styles. That's the way I like to bat - take the game on - so that's what I tried to do.
"To make a hundred in an Ashes Test would have been awesome. Obviously, it's a dream to make a Test match hundred. But I didn't really dream I was going to make 98 on debut - so I'm very, very happy."
Agar revealed he was surprised to hear home fans willing him on to three figures, adding: “I was surprised by the support I was getting from the whole crowd. They were very supportive. There was a bit of sympathy from them and it was nice.”