Pakistan v Australia, 1st MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Lord's, 1st day July 13, 2010

Australia grateful to consistent Katich


Here's something that might surprise you. Simon Katich is statistically Australia's most successful Test opener of all time. Not Matthew Hayden, not Bill Ponsford. Simon Katich. As Katich shuffled off to the Lord's pavilion having been caught behind for 80, he sat atop the list of averages for Australians who have opened in at least 20 Test innings.

Loping out to the crease to replace Katich was Marcus North. The Australians were hoping Katich's consistency would rub off on North, who stalls on start-up more often than a learner driver. Three balls later, he was heading back from whence he came, bowled for a duck by a high-class inswinger from Mohammad Asif.

How North must envy Katich at the moment. The bookends of Australia's top six share much in common - they are unfashionable left-handers, they learnt their trade on the bouncy WACA pitch and they've each scored four hundreds since the beginning of last year - but consistency isn't one of those traits.

While it's been a feast-or-famine year for North, Katich has been dining out on opposition attacks and scoffing down every last scrap of a score he can find. Australia's opener has been so dependable that when he slashed a typical Katich boundary, an uppish cut through gully to reach his half-century, it meant he'd passed fifty in nine consecutive Tests, stretching back to The Oval last year.

The innings was pure Katich: barely a memorable shot until he'd reached a half-century, then a few boundaries crunched off loose balls, especially against Shahid Afridi. As he crab-walked across his stumps he was opening himself up to a Pakistan attack hooping balls around corners, but aside from a lucky let-off when he should have been trapped on 2, he was Australia's rock on a difficult day.

"There's no doubt that it was a tough day all the way through, given the conditions," Katich said after Australia reached 229 for 9. "At no stage did the clouds break and the sun came through. We knew that it was going to be a hard day out there with the ball swinging around consistently. It would have been nice to get more but at the same time we've got nearly 230 runs in the bank."

None of those runs came from the No. 6. Undoubtedly, North deserves his place in the team after rescuing his career with a century and a 90 in New Zealand, but in addition to his four Test centuries, he has been dismissed for 10 or less in more than half of his Test innings.

His high backlift makes him especially vulnerable to full, swinging deliveries and that's precisely what Asif served up. North was lucky to avoid a golden duck, when he could have been lbw had Pakistan noticed the ball hit pad before bat, and two deliveries later his stumps were shattered by a peach of an inswinger. It was that sort of day for the Australians - get your eye in rapidly or get out even quicker.

"If you get in, it can certainly be a great place to bat because the outfield is quick," Katich said. "Once you get used to the pace you can really get set. But vice-versa, there's always enough happening on days like today where it can be hard for the new guy. I don't think we saw too many poor shots or anything like that."

It's true that North was done in by superb bowling, and his position is rightly not in danger on this tour. However, he is the man with the most to lose if Steven Smith performs with the bat in his debut series. Should Smith convince the selectors that he is a viable top-six option - and with a first-class average of more than 50, it's possible - they will be tempted to push him up and enjoy the luxury of an extra specialist bowler.

Fortunately for North, there were no such signs on Smith's first day of Test cricket. Smith was lbw for 1, one of six Australians who failed to reach double figures. They all needed a little of Katich's consistency to rub off.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on July 14, 2010, 15:14 GMT

    @burneyj. Well written and completely spot on! Why do people go on and celebrate so much after initial sessions when it is plainly obvious, given historical form and current pitch and weather conditions that there is so much more to play out in the match. No doubt Pakistan bowled well in the conditions, but let's be realistic, Yousuf out of the side is a HUGE negative to overcome and unfortunately, experience can't be easily replaced. I really enjoy Boom Boom in limited overs, but he has never shown the aptitude needed for test cricket and his innings appeared to be a carryover fomr the T20 games! I love test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2010, 9:04 GMT

    i m a big fan of katich's bowlin. i hope he bowls as wel as he batted. (provided pontin gives him enough overs. he has been underestimated by ponting by not givin enough bowlin)

  • Andrew on July 14, 2010, 8:14 GMT

    There is no good reason why the UDRS system is not in place. A test match played in a technologically advanced country should have UDRS - very annoying. As for North, he probably will eventually lose his place to Smith @ no. 6. Hauritz will come back in when fit. Australia will have 3 pacers + watson & 2 spinners + Clarke & Katich.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2010, 6:43 GMT

    katich is australias best batsman at this current time, and north is pathetic been given to many chances and with david hussey who hasnt even made a test debut the selectors should be stepped down

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2010, 6:17 GMT

    Day2 will give a fair idea of what should we expect from Pakistan in coming 5 (and half) test match. Hussey said, Pakis have a great bowling attack but we are sure we can restrict them to a score lower then us.. -Batting a crucial factor for these Test no doubt - but can our fast bowling trio stay fit for six tests bowling on Average 35 overs per match??

  • Manasvi on July 14, 2010, 3:54 GMT

    Afridi hasn't been needed to do much the ball and he can make an impact later. But, it is with the bat that he needs to fire regularly.

  • Imran on July 14, 2010, 3:34 GMT

    Well, Aussies should feel lucky that Katich was not given LBW in the start of the innings,... score of 200+ would have been difficult.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2010, 2:32 GMT

    If the UDRS been in place things would have been totally different. There were at least three wrong calls by the umpires. Katich was plumb in front of the stumps and was given not out, Smith was not LBW as he had an inside edge onto the pads and was given out and Clarke was also NOT OUT and was given. UDRS MUST be made essential part of cricket. Australia could have benefited more as two decisions went against them: Clarke was well set and if he had not gone back, things could have been different, Smith is also a class act with the bat and has an average of over 50 in first class cricket and if he had stayed things may have been different as well. PLUS had Katich been given LBW things could be far brighter for Pakistan coz he is the only person who scored some runs along with Clarke and Hussey.

  • Michael on July 14, 2010, 2:10 GMT

    It's time for North to go. He has been given more than enough opportunity, and the TEST arena is not the place for North to find back his form. With the Ashes so close, it should be time to give some consistent players a turn. Rogers did supurbly the other day, so he should be given a go, even David Hussey, White, Jaques, Hughes, and many others can do no worse than North at the moment.

  • Siraj on July 14, 2010, 2:04 GMT

    Yes, sure Katich is truly a very good batsman and is very consistent. Australia also have great bowling attack and it will be a good 2nd day to watch.

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