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SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia's newspapers are hoping debutant Ashton Agar can replicate his record-breaking first Test innings and guide his team to victory in the fluctuating first Ashes Test against England.
While the media Sunday highlighted yet more umpiring controversies that have dogged the series opener at Nottingham, commentators pointed to the 19-year-old rookie as Australia's unlikely saviour after his amazing debut knock of 98 batting at number 11.
England were on the brink of winning the first Test with Australia 174 for six at stumps on Saturday's fourth day, needing a further 137 runs to reach their victory target of 311.
No side has made more to win in the fourth innings of a Trent Bridge Test than England's 284 for six against New Zealand in 2004.
Former Test captain Ian Chappell described Agar as the next Shane Warne, quickly adding: "Forget about his bowling, I'm talking about as a batsman.
"Very few Test debutants can say they saved a series for their team. If Agar hadn't stunned England and amazed the cricket world with his batting, Australia may have lost the first Test so badly a comeback would have been difficult," Chappell wrote in The Sunday Telegraph.
"Thanks to him, Australia now have a realistic chance of competing in this suddenly captivating series."
Chappell said as a bowler, Agar would not be another Warne, but he "looks to be a rarity among recent Australian spin bowlers; he has the talent and temperament to be a building block for the future".
The Australian's Wayne Smith said Agar, promoted to bat at number eight in the second innings on the strength of his first effort, will need another sizeable innings if Australia are to go one up in the five-Test series.
"Anyone who saw Agar's breathless 98 on day two would have been convinced they were witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime feat but if Australia, still needing another 137 runs for victory, is to triumph on the final day, he surely will need to replicate it on Sunday," Smith said.
The Australian press reported on continuing umpiring controversies, with claims that four umpire calls for close leg before wicket decisions had gone against Australia, while they also bemoaned the team's brittle top order batting.
"England has again exposed Australia's soft underbelly, with another batting collapse in the first Test leaving Australia on the brink of defeat,' The Sunday Telegraph's Malcolm Conn said.
"Chief amongst Australia's concerns is Ed Cowan. His double failure in this Test, batting in a new position at number three, could spell the end of his Test career."
The Melbourne Age columnist Greg Baum said the Australians cannot blame the decision review system (DRS) for their plight.
"When the Australians review this first Test, form says they will botch it. Indiscriminate recourse to the decision review system contributed to, but did not cause, their imminent defeat. It would also behoove the ICC to review the system," Baum wrote.
"Three of the six wickets that fatally undermined Australia's quixotic bid for victory were processed through DRS. Obtaining a Test wicket has become something akin to negotiating terms of surrender.
"In each of England's second innings and its own, Australia blew both its referrals before the fall of the fifth wicket. Infamously, it cost Australia the wicket of Stuart Broad on Friday at a time when it still would have made a difference."