After fun runs, Hauritz hopes for wickets
Nathan Hauritz won many admirers for his batting on the second day at the MCG but it's his bowling that needs to spark flag-waving and applause from Australian fans. Hauritz has been Australia's main Test spinner for the past year but he is not an automatic selection and was this week challenged by the chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch to prove he can bowl the team to victory in the fourth innings.
When he was belting his way to a nightwatchman's 75, capitalising on the rare chance to spend a long time at the crease, Hauritz looked like a man who was having fun. He slogged his opposing offspinner Saeed Ajmal with gusto and enjoyed the freedom to attack after lunch with a declaration on the horizon.
But at the bowling crease, Hauritz often appears worried, furrowing his brow and hoping he can do the job asked of him. Shane Warne loved nothing more than to have his captain and 90,000 fans at the MCG hanging on every flick of his wrist; Hauritz looks like the type of worker who'd perform best without his boss looking over his shoulder.
Confidence does not seem to be a natural part of his makeup. He has yet to take more than three wickets in a Test innings and when the spotlight shines on him in the fourth innings, his average has blown out to nearly 50. He said that was partly because he doesn't have "60 or 70 games behind me bowling in those conditions" but conceded Hilditch had a point.
"I personally thought he was spot on the money," Hauritz said. "I haven't had a great opportunity, I've had a couple of games, Melbourne last year, Sydney last year and then Perth, they're my three innings bowling in the last innings per se.
"But I completely understand where he's coming from. It's my job to create those opportunities on the fourth or fifth day, whether it be the third innings or fourth innings. I know that's one area of my game I've got to improve. I've definitely taken that on board."
At one point on the second day in Melbourne, the stump microphone picked up Brad Haddin joking after a Hauritz delivery: "Oooh, doosra!" The players had a good-natured giggle and moved on. The Australians know Hauritz's limitations but they like having him in the team. In Melbourne and in Perth he almost wasn't, as finger and groin injuries caused the selectors to call up Steven Smith as a backup.
Hauritz said his groin trouble would not affect his bowling - he sent down 14 economical overs and had Faisal Iqbal caught at slip - but Smith's presence in the squad is interesting all the same. A raw legspinner, Smith has 11 first-class wickets at 75, which makes it easy to assume the selectors are just as interested in his batting average of 46. All the more reason for Hauritz to enjoy his second Test half-century of the summer.
"Given that responsibility of being the nightwatchman I've done a bit more work on trying to improve my defence and letting the ball go, and that sort of thing," Hauritz said. "Generally the attacking shots go pretty naturally. I've been trying to work as hard as I can on it."
The results are showing. Now to make the fans cheer for his bowling as well.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo