LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: Ashton Agar of Australia talks during a media interview ahead of an Australia Net Session at The Kia Oval on June 11, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

Ashton Agar: “Everyone’s saying its a new era of Australian cricket”

It has been a turbulent few months for the Australian cricket team. They have been rocked by the ball-tampering scandal that saw the suspension of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft. Smith and Warner have been an integral part of the Australian team across all three formats for many years, yet Australia now find themselves stranded without these two experienced batsmen. Moreover, James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia, recently announced his resignation.

However, as I watched Australia train on Monday, they seemed to have settled down well and they were all in good spirits. As they did their sprints there was friendly competition and lots of laughter and joking. In the nets they trained with full intensity. Justin Langer surveyed their preparations intently. Watching this side warm up, it does seem that this is the beginning of a new era. We have already heard Tim Paine and Justin Langer talking about sledging and trying to redefine Australia’s image in the cricketing world. It seems that this process is well underway.

This sentiment was echoed by Ashton Agar as he spoke to the press. The spinner, picked off the back of some fantastic domestic white-ball performances in the Big Bash League, looked in good form in the Trans-Tasman tri-series involving Australia, England and New Zealand. He told the journalists:

 I’m feeling really good. Everyone’s saying it’s a new era of Australian cricket.

Agar continued: “We’ve got a nice, refreshed feeling in the group. We’ve prepared really nicely with our last couple of practice games so we’ve got good momentum and it’ll be nice to get back on the park today”.
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Australia have played two warm up matches in England, one against Sussex and one at Lord’s against Middlesex. They won both matches, with Marcus Stoinis and Travis Head starring with the bat. Understandably there have been some concerns about a lack of experience in this Australia side, with the absence of Smith and Warner. Agar, however, was not phased by this: “we have a really versatile squad and an injection of youth that is always helpful and everyone is really believing in themselves at the moment and believing they can do a job for the team.”

The form of Glen Maxwell has been troubling and he failed in both warm up matches, scoring just 1 and 3. If Maxwell’s poor run of form continues, Australia’s middle order could potentially be quite weak. That is not in the mood in the Australian camp though, with Agar saying that there are “definitely no concerns” and that the practise matches were very useful as it allowed them “to spend some quality time in the middle, get a bit of game time and for batters to try and solidify a game-plan.”

Another big name missing out on the tour is the injured Mitchell Starc. Although he is arguably one of the best one-day bowlers around, his absence has given Billy Stanlake an opportunity to establish himself as an international player. Agar when asked whether he thought this had weakened the side, seemed rather surprised:

Weakened? Maybe slightly without 150k Mitchell Starc coming in but we’ve got another 150k Billy Stanlake coming in, so left and right arm. If you want to call that a weakness you can.

Agar acknowledged that Stanlake has a great opportunity this tour: “it’s a great chance for Billy to show what he can do, bowl 150ks and take some wickets.”

While the Australian camp seem rather relaxed and confident, there must be alarm bells ringing for England. They suffered a shock defeat to Scotland on Sunday. England were meant to be training on Monday as well, but they cancelled their session. Agar was full of excitement about England’s loss. He started by saying:

“it was an interesting game yesterday… for us, it’s great England did not win yesterday because you always like to start with a win.”

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No doubt England will be panicking slightly about how to bounce back ahead of the first ODI against tomorrow. However, Agar still maintained that Australia have to be wary and play at their best if they are going to win. He acknowledged that they’ve got momentum and that their tour match wins are great for them, but also warned:

They’re [England] a really dangerous side and you can’t ever take a side like that lightly. We need to bring our A-game and be ready to go.

The 2019 World Cup is fast approaching. This is a vital series for Australia as they look to decide on a starting XI that are best suited to English conditions. This tour will be crucial to their preparation and we can expect the series to be a hard fought affair.

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