India v Australia, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 2nd day October 10, 2010

North savours satisfying century

ESPNcricinfo staff
The middle-order batsman has had starting trouble, but once he gets set he usually makes a big score

Forrest Gump's momma thought life was like a box of chocolates. "You never know what you're gonna get". Australian cricket fans must get the same feeling these days when Marcus North walks to the crease and marks his guard. His superb 128 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium was North's fifth century in just 19 Tests, but he's also been out an astonishing 16 times for scores of 10 or less [31 innings]. English fans who have been willing him into the Ashes side should be careful what they wish for. When he gets a start, North can really hurt you.

His press conference after the day's play was as calm and composed as most of his innings had been. "Been asked that question maybe 20 times," he said with a smile when the starting trouble was mentioned. "Do you blokes have any ideas? It's a difficult one for me. It's been like that my whole career and it's highlighted at the Test level because every innings is there for everyone to see and comment about. I'm trying my best to work with it."

That work involved sessions with Tim Nielsen, the coach, where they focussed on getting a positive stride down the wicket. There was also attention paid to his on-drive. "The work I did with Vinny [Nielsen] ... having a really positive foot movement. It sounds simple, but it's not that easy. That's something I'll take away from this innings. When I've struggled to get started, my feet [movements] perhaps haven't been as sharp. Most batsmen are like that, but I've been more vulnerable than most."

North was nearly 30 when he made his debut, and he reckons that the late start has made him cherish every opportunity to wear the baggy green. "I made my debut so late that I thought I probably wasn't going to play for Australia," he said. "I try to enjoy every Test match and make the most of it. It can be difficult at times, the pressures of the game and the standards you set yourself. This is my 19th Test and the main thing for me is to try and contribute to a win."

After a week of raging debate over whether he'd be part of the Ashes equation, North was just content to savour what he called a "satisfying hundred". "You have to ask the national selectors that," he quipped when asked about the Ashes. "I knew that I was under pressure going into this game. I've had a couple of disappointing Test matches, so I thought it was a great opportunity to go in on a pretty good batting surface and get a score. I got a start yesterday and it was nice to go on and make the most of it today."

Having come in with the scoreboard showing 198 for 4, North scored nearly half the runs added before his heave at Harbhajan Singh found the fielder in the deep. "After walking in yesterday against Zaheer Khan, my feet were moving as well as they have been for a while," he said. When play was called off, he was on 43, having just survived a swinging yorker from Zaheer. "It was a bit of luck," he said. "It was dark there. My whole innings, I felt like I was hitting the ball pretty well straight. It was something me and Tim had worked on."

In his case, the familiarity with the venue bred confidence, not contempt. "I was walking off after the last training session and JL [Justin Langer] said: 'Make sure you visualise scoring some runs here'. I've played here three or four times, made hundreds for WA [Western Australia] on pre-season tours and also played for Australia A here. Scored a few runs here, but a Test match is a completely different scenario."

North's record of five centuries in 19 Tests compares favourably to some of the game's greats. It took Rahul Dravid 29 Tests to score five hundreds, though his average was much higher, and it took Steve Waugh as many as 56 games

North's record of five centuries compares favourably to some of the game's greats. It took Rahul Dravid 29 Tests to score five hundreds, though his average was much higher, and it took Steve Waugh as many as 56 games. It wasn't until after he'd played 60 games that Waugh consistently averaged over 40. Maybe the selectors do know something that the average punter doesn't.

When his place in the side was being queried, his team-mates had rallied round North and Ricky Ponting, his captain, had spoken at length about the experience and composure that he brought to the side. North insisted that the rough patch had not shaken his self-belief. "You might think that's quite strange," he said. "Other than talking with Vinny, I didn't change anything mentally. The week before last, I got a hundred in the warm-up game. I felt I was in pretty good touch. I've felt pretty comfortable this tour and maybe that's why, under a lot of pressure, I've come through."

Australia have never lost in Bangalore and now have the advantage of runs on the board, but North admitted that it would take some special bowling to prise the Indians out twice. "It's a pretty good batting surface and should hold together," he said. "It was pretty tacky and moist on day one, and is probably going to take a few days to dry out. There is a bit of deterioration, and it may be harder to bat on days four and five. We're going to have to come out tomorrow and be very disciplined to build pressure and get into the middle order."

The bowler to most catch the eye in the session that India batted was Ben Hilfenhaus, who gave little away and also dismissed Virender Sehwag with the short-ball bait that he has fallen for in three successive innings. "Since Hilfy's made his debut, he's been very impressive in all conditions," said North. "He's a natural swing bowler and suited to the English and Australian swinging ball.

"Coming over here, he's proved that there's more to his game than just swinging the ball. He's banged it in hard, bowled cross-seam and tidily. He's adapted his game to Indian conditions pretty quickly and had some success."

The biggest barrier in Australia's path, with VVS Laxman unavailable for this game, could be Sachin Tendulkar, and North couldn't hide his admiration. "He's a pretty amazing player," he said. "To be on the same ground when he brought up his 14,000th Test run is pretty special. It's a credit to his career. We talk about the pressures of Test cricket. This guy's got the pressure of a nation on him. He's someone we're going to try and remove pretty quickly tomorrow. To see him score 14,000 in the same game in which I went past 1000 puts things into perspective."

Perspective is certainly not something that North lacks. A late entrant to the Test game, he may play a few more yet.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prerak on October 11, 2010, 4:02 GMT

    @manasvi_lingam I kinda like mango juice, electric bulb wasn't invented by Edison and coriander=cilantro,talking off topics is one of the things you understand !!

    @rest: I would prefer a guy contributing 35-40 runs every inning than someone like North who deals in below 30 or above 100, but I'd still put my money on him as Aus selectors seldom get it wrong.

  • Dummy4 on October 11, 2010, 2:02 GMT

    @ manasvi_lingam. yeah dude this article is about north, not india in any way ! ! please do not doubt out talent.. dhonis test average speaks volumes about his is wrong to label him as an ODI out for pujara and raina this match.our young blokes have to step up, and they will

  • Dummy4 on October 11, 2010, 1:21 GMT

    North surely knows how to deal with pressure cooker situation.. gotta love the sporstmen who delievr the best in most crunch situation. his latest innings will keep him in good situation as he potentionaly saved the match for AUS and by all mean his career for the moment at least.

    he is a lockin for the first Ashes test , but he knows as well as anyone else that he needs to be consistent..

    well done to him to bring that 100 when it mattered the most

  • Sam on October 11, 2010, 1:19 GMT

    Australia have the batting depth to keep North in the team. It is frustrating when he gets low scores but once he is set he seems adept at converting good starts into big scores. I would like to see him used more as a bowler though. With Clarke and Katich not bowling, to save their bodies for batting, Australia need their No. 6 to be a bowling option. Watson adds depth to the pace department but can not be over utilised. If North is dropped then Australia need a like for like replacement or they will have to start looking at replacing Hussey. If Ferguson got a chance the bowling options would be lessened unless he replaced a dedicated batsman and the only choice there would be Hussey. It is ironic that if North had scores of 38, 50, 30, 40 etc. he would be safer than with scores like 0,10,10,125. Anyway I kept him in my fantasy team in anticipation of a big score and I think Australia should do the same.

  • James on October 11, 2010, 0:58 GMT

    England will go in to the Ashes with a very similar attack to the 09 series- Finn will start instead of Onions/Bresnan. North scored heavily on that tour against this attack and in his own Australian conditions there is no reason why he shouldn't do the same again. His only problem obviously was the inconsistency as we've heard a million times. I think his success against this attack previously is a huge reason the selectors have stuck with him through a very poor 12 months.

  • John on October 11, 2010, 0:43 GMT

    In an already boom or bust batting lineup, we need consistency. I have nothing against North, he's proven to be a good player, but 6 failures in a row followed by a career saving century is not going to help us win the Ashes, especially with the rest of the middle order struggling as well.

  • Harvey on October 10, 2010, 23:40 GMT

    I suppose now after one innings the selectors will be saying he is in form blah blah blah. One innings doesnt count as being in form. He has a long way to go to prove himself. IMO his spot is far from secure. It just means he has a licence to fail for another series.

  • hayden on October 10, 2010, 22:56 GMT

    great, so thats atleast another 5 tests now until he can be dropped now!!!! just when we were so close in getting someone better into the no. 6 spot! @ popcorn 1 innings doesnt make up for the last 10! if hughes or furgison or henriques or klinger or anyone else i have missed were ever given such a prolonged run in the team, espechally if that run included home test against west indies and pakistan i have no doubt all would have come away with far more runs than north managed! the only winners out of day 2's play in the long run is england!

  • Dummy4 on October 10, 2010, 21:15 GMT

    guys manasvi_lingam is a troll ...dont feed him

  • Akash on October 10, 2010, 20:08 GMT

    @manasvi_lingam: mate, do you have a positive bone in your body? I read all the articles on Cricinfo but hardly ever comment on them... But i've seen so many negative comments from you on so many articles, that it has made me take this effort to write a comment myself! Mate, they're all sportspeople, and like everyone else in the world, they have flaws! There's a reason they play for the country, and before you say that's money, let me say that its because they're good enough to do so. So unless you can pick up a bat and go bat for India, keep your bullshit to yourself!

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