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January 18, 2010
Here's a sentence that few experts thought they'd read: Nathan Hauritz was the leading wicket-taker in the Test series. He even equalled Mitchell Johnson's tally of 29 for the summer to be at the head of Australia's bowling table. On the final day in Hobart, he grabbed three victims, including the key dismissal of Khurram Manzoor with a delivery pushed across him that was edged behind.
It continued his resurgence after being challenged by the chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch to step up in the dying stages of Tests. Five-wicket hauls came in Melbourne and Sydney and he is now averaging 20.81 in the fourth innings, down from a mark around 60 prior to the series. What impressed Ricky Ponting the most was that Hauritz delivered when there was little assistance in the pitches.
"He's had a great series here, no doubt about it," Ponting said. "We've been waiting for guys like him to have those breakout performances and once you do it once you know you can do it, so it's a matter of time before it keeps happening again. For him to get the five-for in the second innings in Melbourne was really what has led to him having the success he's had over the last couple of weeks."
The sceptics remain. Before the series started, Pakistan went on the front foot and said their spinners were better than Hauritz. Between them, Saeed Ajmal and Danish Kaneria earned 11 wickets in the three Tests. Mohammad Yousuf felt his batsmen had contributed to Hauritz's better results as much as the bowler himself.
"We give 18 wickets to Hauritz, that is more disappointing," Yousuf said. "We have given our wickets to Hauritz. They haven't given them to Danish."
Hauritz is becoming used to having his talents questioned and Ponting said he was thrilled with the way he had handled the pressure. "He's probably a bit maligned," Ponting said. "He gets a bit from the crowds at different times as well, but he can only do his best and his best so far has been very good for us."
Hauritz has played 12 Tests over the past 14 months and has ended Australia's revolving-door policy regarding spinners. Brad Hogg, Stuart MacGill, Beau Casson, Cameron White, Jason Krejza and Bryce McGain have all played Tests since Shane Warne's retirement. It has given Ponting confidence that Hauritz can be the man in the long term.
"Haury has come along tremendously well," he said. "We've given him a good run at it as well, which was I think what we needed to do with the amount of spinners we've had in and out of our team in the last couple of years. We had to find someone that had a good upbringing if you like as far as spin bowling is concerned, someone who had a bit of experience under their belt.
"The other guys who have been in and out of the side are guys who probably didn't have that real strong background behind them. Nathan always had that. When we got him in to the side it was about exposing him and letting him learn and letting him develop."
At 28, that process is continuing. But if he equals his efforts next summer with 29 wickets in an Ashes series, it will be only the England supporters targeting him from the stands.
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