Ashes holds no fear for debutants: Waugh | cricketnetwork.com

Ashes holds no fear for debutants: Waugh

01 November 2017

A look at six stand-out Test debut performances by Australians in Ashes matches over the past 50 years

As debate intensifies around the national selection panel's options for the two berths up for grabs in the Australia team for the opening Magellan Ashes Test in Brisbane, Mark Waugh has claimed that the importance of a series against England should not dissuade selectors from naming uncapped players.

Waugh cited the example of his own debut Test – in an Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval in 1991 where he scored an imperious century in his maiden innings – as evidence that untried players should not be ruled out of the ongoing selection discussion.

Australia captain Steve Smith confirmed last week that nine of the 11 names inked in for the first Test at the Gabba starting November 23 were "there or thereabouts", reiterating earlier public comments that the number six batting/all-rounder and the wicketkeeper roles remained up for grabs.

That has prompted heavy scrutiny on a list of candidates in the opening rounds of the JLT Sheffield Shield competition that began last week, principal among them Australia-capped batters Glenn Maxwell, Hilton Cartwright, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head as well as ex-Test keeper Peter Nevill.

But also mentioned have been a number of uncapped players including 26-year-old South Australia keeper-batsman Alex Carey, and highly regarded New South Wales batting pair Kurtis Patterson (24) and Daniel Hughes (28).

Shield wrap: How Australia's Test hopefuls fared

Waugh, who since last March has been employed solely as a national T20 selector, said that players who had not yet earned a national call-up at Test or limited-overs level should also be in the mix, with their lack of experience in international company no disadvantage.

As Ashes history has so often revealed.

"A lot of players have made their debut in an Ashes, I did for a starter," Waugh told Sky Sports Radio's 'Big Sports Breakfast' program on Tuesday.

"Why not?

"I'm not saying Alex Carey will be in the (Test) team, but why couldn't he play against England?

"It's a game of cricket.

"Yes, there's a bit more pressure on but once you get out onto the field, I think your natural instincts take over."

The most recent Australia player to make his Test debut in an Ashes Test was Nevill, who was included in the starting XI for the second match of the 2015 series at Lord's when incumbent keeper Brad Haddin withdrew due to the illness of his young daughter, Mia.

George Bailey was the most recent to receive his Test cap in an Ashes match in Australia, named for all five Tests of the previous England tour down under in 2013-14.

And while neither of those players were able to nail down a permanent Test berth, Ashes folklore is littered with examples of players who were given a chance to start their Baggy Green journey against the nation's fiercest rival and grabbed it with both hands.

Here are six stand-out Test debut performances by Australians in Ashes matches over the past 50 years.

1. Greg Chappell (Perth 1970-71)

In the same series that heralded the arrival of Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh on the Test scene, Chappell was included for the second Test after the opening match at the Gabba resulted in a draw.

Notably, given that he went on to become the foremost Australian batter of his era, Chappell was included as an all-rounder and batted at number seven (where he scored a patient 108 from 218 deliveries in a 219-run sixth-wicket stand with Ian Redpath) and was employed as first-change bowler with his medium-pacers behind Graham McKenzie and Alan Thomson.

By the time Australia toured England for a return bout the following year, Chappell had been elevated to the top four of Australia's batting under his captain and older brother, Ian, a position that he made his own until his retirement 12 years later.

Age at debut: 22

Form line: 853 runs at 60.93 (HS 156no, 4 centuries) & 14 wkts at 31.86 in 10 first-class matches before debut

Total career Tests: 87

Massie's masterclass

2. Bob Massie (Lord's, 1972)

Having lost the opening Test of their 1972 Ashes tour, Ian Chappell and his fellow selectors opted to include an extra seamer - Dennis Lillee's Western Australia new-ball partner Bob Massie - for the second match at Lord's.

Massie had notionally represented Australia in three unofficial 'Tests' against a Rest of the World XI that was assembled to replace the scheduled 1971-72 tour by South Africa, which had been cancelled in protest at the nation's ongoing race-based apartheid laws.

However, in his first formal Test appearance under grey skies at Lord's, Massie mesmerised England to claim 16-137 (8-84 and 8-53) in what remains an unsurpassed return for an Australia bowler on debut. Massie never recaptured the swing or success of his maiden match, and barely six months later his international career was over. Within a year, he could no longer make the WA team.

Age at debut: 25

Form line: 32 wkts at 25.06 (best 7/76, 2 x 5wkts/inn) in 10 matches before debut (inc 1972 Ashes tour games)

Total career Tests: 6

3. Rodney Hogg (Brisbane, 1978-79)

With the fracture of the World Series Cricket divide growing ever-wider, Australia scheduled six Ashes Tests against an opponent significantly less affected by the defection of players to the Kerry Packer camp in the hope of winning the battle for fans and credibility.

While the on-field battles proved heavily lopsided – England scooped the series 5-1 to regain the Ashes – fans loyal to Australia's establishment cause found an unlikely fast bowling hero in Rodney Hogg.

As brashly anti-authoritarian as he was anti-batsmen, Hogg drew a cult following after snaring 6-74 in his maiden bowling innings and repeatedly piercing the hitherto impenetrable defence of England's premier opener, Geoffrey Boycott, throughout the summer.

Hogg finished the campaign with a remarkable 41 wickets at 12.85, the best return by any bowler in an Ashes series on Australian soil.  

Age at debut: 27

Form line: 49 wkts at 22.84 (best 6/80, 4 x 5wkts/inn) in 10 matches before Test debut

Total career Tests: 38

Yes Moments: Junior seizes his opportunity

4. Mark Waugh (Adelaide, 1990-91)

Famously included in the Australia line up at the expense of his twin brother Stephen, Waugh was no new boy to the international scene having played his first ODI for his country more than two years earlier.

He had also been part of New South Wales' Sheffield Shield outfit for five years, and played several seasons as the overseas professional for English county Essex which meant he had notched in excess of 100 first-class matches and scored 7500-plus runs when he finally earned a call-up.

After compiling a languidly elegant 138, having entered the arena with Australia in some bother at 4-104, Waugh returned to the dressing room after his memorable maiden effort and dryly observed to his then Test captain Allan Border "see, you should've picked me earlier".

Age at debut: 25

Form line: 1085 runs at 83.46 (HS 229no, 4 centuries), 7 wkts at 42.86 in 10 matches before Test debut

Total career Tests: 128

The Inner Circle: Blewy gets by, with a little help...

5. Greg Blewett (Adelaide, 1994-95)

Adelaide was abuzz for the fourth Ashes Test of 1994-95, with the Ashes safely in Australia's keeping and local lads Greg Blewett and Peter McIntyre joining the Baggy Green fraternity. Blewett ensured the stands again filled on the fourth day when he ended day three on 91 not out and within reach of a century on debut.

That outcome became problematic as Australia's lower-order collapsed that fourth morning and fast bowler Craig McDermott was rushed to hospital and seemingly unable to bat, so it was left to acknowledged batting bunny McIntyre to stay with his close mate and see him to a century amid high drama.

Blewett finished unbeaten on 102, the 11th batsman to post a Test hundred in his debut innings for Australia and the most recent to do so in an Ashes match.

Age at debut: 23

Form line: 1219 runs at 71.71 (HS 268, 4 centuries), 18 wkts at 21.94 in 10 matches before Test debut

Total career Tests: 46

Ashton Agar's famous partnership with Phillip Hughes at Trent Bridge, Ashes 2015 // Getty Images
Ashton Agar's famous partnership with Phillip Hughes at Trent Bridge, Ashes 2015 // Getty Images

6. Ashton Agar (Trent Bridge, 2013)

A surprise selection as a front line spin bowler, Ashton Agar's Test debut quickly became a celebration of his capabilities with the bat. While his batting history indicated that slotting him in at number 11 was not an accurate reflection of his ability, his novice status – the teenager had played just 10 first-class matches prior to his elevation – meant he was relegated to last on the list.

If that was partly because the brains trust was unsure how readily he might adapt to Test cricket, then he soon signalled it was not an issue adding 163 for the last wicket with the late Phillip Hughes and coming within one well-timed blow of an unlikely, unprecedented hundred on debut at number 11.

Age at debut: 19

Form line: 336 runs at 33.60 (HS 71no), 31 wkts at 29.39 (best 5-65, 1 x 5wkts/inn) in 10 matches before Test debut

Total career Tests: 4 (to date)

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

Gillette T20 INTL Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21


About the Writer

 @ARamseyCricket
@ARamseyCricket

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.