Agar's a Test hero; what Tevez does is not cricket

In the court of public opinion, gifted sports stars can sometimes seem to write their own rules.

Carlos Tevez, the wayward Argentinian striker, has moved on from Manchester City to Juventus - so, on Wednesday, a judge waived the vast bulk of his community-service sentence in exchange for a fine of £3,000 (S$5,700).

The next morning, Ashton Agar, a 19-year-old Australian of Sri Lankan descent, began an innings that broke every record in the history of Ashes cricket.

He was last man in to bat, and with his side in tatters, he struck sixes and fours until he holed out two runs shy of a century on debut.

The crowd at Trent Bridge - hyped into believing that rolling over the Aussies was a foregone conclusion in this summer of British sporting supremacy - responded in the time-honoured way.

They applauded the gutsy teenager. And even the most partisan among them clearly regretted that he missed the ton by a whisker.

Tevez is the face of hubris gone wrong, Agar is a reminder of the wonderful unpredictability of sport.

The footballer didn't bother to turn up at the magistrates court. His legal team argued that it was impractical, now that he has left the country, for Carlos to put in 250 hours at a community garden centre helping adults with learning difficulties.

"This is only a technical breach," said judge Bridget Knight. "It is not - I repeat not - a case of a footballer thumbing his nose at a court order."

It is hard to know, one way or the other, what Tevez thinks of British justice.

This is the player who took four months' unauthorised leave during the season because he had fallen out with City's then former manager Roberto Mancini.

This is the striker who said he had to move closer to Buenos Aires where his wife and daughters wouldn't leave Argentina. He moved to Italy.

"Let's not beat about the bush," said a spokesman for Families Against Crime. "Carlos Tevez was guilty of repeated driving offences and rode roughshod over the British justice system."

His offences were driving, uninsured, while disqualified for speeding.

He claimed, or his lawyers claimed on his behalf, that Mr Tevez had troubles understanding the laws and the police enforcement notices he ignored.

He is a talented man, a speedy and committed chaser of opportunity when he does show up for duty. But, for some reason, there are those in England, even in Manchester, who are not sorry to see him go.

Agar? He is most welcome, even when he turns an Ashes match, or at least an innings, on its head.

The situation when Agar joined Phil Hughes in the middle on Thursday, was Australia nine wickets down for just 117 runs.

"Phil just told me to take it ball by ball," said the debut man with just 10 first-class matches back in Australia behind him.

His mother, father and two younger brothers had flown in from Melbourne when they were tipped off on Monday that he was a surprise choice.

They arrived just in time to see Glenn McGrath, the fine old pace bowler, hand Agar his green cap and tell him: "Never give up."

Those words, according to Agar's father John, were preaching to the converted. Agar is a law student for whom cricket is a game - a compulsion, but still a game.

His personal motto is "freedom, no fear". He is actually in the side as a left-arm spin bowler, but as we all now know, he is handier with a bat than his No. 11 status implied.

He pulled, he drove, he stroked the willow against the ball. He comfortably handled the guile of Graeme Swann, the world's best spin bowler.

He dealt with attempts by the 2m-tall Steven Finn to bully and bruise him by swatting boundaries of head-high bouncers. And, bless him, Agar smiled while doing so.

It wasn't an aggressor's smile. It certainly was no showman pretending that the concrete hard ball didn't hurt when it thumped into his upper arm.

"I don't mind short pitched stuff," he said afterwards. "I grew up playing with my younger brothers William and Wesley in our front driveway. They are not much younger than me, so we had fierce battles.

"If you took a wicket, you went in to bat, so if you couldn't bowl you didn't get to bat, and if you couldn't bat you spent a long time bowling."

One thing the English have learnt is that this bowler can bat. And with the fluency, the timing and the courage of his first innings, he shared with Hughes the all-time record last-wicket partnership - of any team at any time in Test cricket.

Dave Hughes, a cricketer with the same name as his partner at the wicket on Thursday, tweeted immediately: "I've always believed in Ashton Agar since I first knew of him, an hour ago."

Brilliant. After his first 101 balls, and his "no fear" 98, he apologised to his family for getting out two runs short of the ton. His mother Sonia simply said: "That's my boy."

Her father, Nala Hewawissa, played with distinction for Dharmarajah College in Kandy.

It's all in the genes.

stsports@sph.com.sg

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