Pakistan v Australia 2010

Spin success takes North by surprise

Brydon Coverdale

July 18, 2010

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

When Shahid Afridi was asked after the Lord's Test what he thought of Marcus North's bowling, he screwed up his face, looked away and tried not to laugh. As compliments go, it could have been more convincing. North doesn't care. He described it as one of the highlights of his career to help Australia win a Test and earn a place on the bowling honour board at Lord's, alongside his batting colleague Shane Watson.

If that wasn't proof enough that the natural order had been turned upside-down, North's 6 for 55 was the best bowling by an Australian spinner in a Test innings at the home of cricket. Shane Warne couldn't match it, nor Clarrie Grimmett, nor Arthur Mailey, although none of them had the luxury of bowling to Pakistan at Lord's.

"I don't feel like I deserve that, to be honest," North said. "There have been some amazing bowlers over the years who have had some great bowling performances at Lord's. I certainly would like to have that six-for against England. But it was a great occasion to play at a neutral venue against Pakistan at Lord's."

Afridi's wicket was the ultimate bonus for a bowler - from his fourth delivery he tried to launch North onto Cavendish Avenue, only to find the fielder at deep midwicket. It wasn't all luck for North and his dismissal of Umar Akmal, who cut to slip when he was surprised by turn and extra bounce from the rough outside off stump, was memorable.

Things went North's way as soon as Ricky Ponting handed him the ball ahead of Steven Smith on the fourth day. With two left-handers at the crease, Ponting wanted the ball turning away from them, but with his first delivery North drifted the ball down leg side and had Salman Butt stumped thanks to an excellent piece of glovework from Tim Paine.

"I'm as surprised as you guys," North said. "It felt like the ball was coming out okay. There are times it has come out better, but I haven't had too many opportunities at this level. An opportunity to contribute with the ball is something that I love to do. Getting the ball thrown to me and having the opportunity to help win a Test match for Australia is certainly one of the highlights of my career."

North's first six-for in first-class cricket helped him forget about a disappointing match with the bat, after he was bowled for a duck in the first innings and caught behind for 20 in the second. North is coming off a century and a 90 in Australia's last series, on their tour of New Zealand, but his tendency to make triple or single figures, with not a lot in between, is a slight concern.

"In general with batters the first 20 or 30 balls are pretty important," he said. "My record shows it's very important for me. It's something that I'm very aware of. I don't think it's a nervous thing. I'm no more nervous than anyone else. It's something that I've been trying to work on my whole career, it's not just since I've been playing for Australia."

It's a habit that means he is constantly under the microscope, for even if he has scored recent hundreds a string of very low scores is not a good look for a No. 6 batsman. Speculation over his place in the team intensified during the Australian home season, but his efforts in New Zealand eased the pressure.

"That's something I've learnt a lot during the Australian summer, where there is that scrutiny," North said of dealing with media criticism. "I've learnt ways and techniques to filter that. But in New Zealand it was rewarding for me not just to get through that scrutiny but as a mental challenge as well, dealing with that side of things for the first time is rewarding for me."

At least the next Test is being played at a venue with happy memories for North. At Headingley last year, his 110 helped Australia to an innings victory over England and earned him the Man of the Match award. He'd love to remind people he's a batsman first, bowler second.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Posted by   on (July 19, 2010, 19:54 GMT)

Dude.. dsnt matter how we won!! We won is wat matters!! N yeh can u please remind me how many times aussies have beaten up india in tests too?? Umm its lyk uncountablee.. n yeh we r more than capable of taking 20 indian wkts.. jus wait n watch in october how we rip thru ur terrible old batsmen.. n yeh if u havent realised indian bowlers r much much much more crap than aussies at the moment.. haha we shall see sharma come n show his lame teeth at the ground while he cant bowl no shit!! N yeah pls dnt teach me whr yu can take 20 wkts n whr not dude..i kno the game of cricket perfectly well!! I was jus trying to show yu tht we r much better coz the odi series is lyk the last bilateral series we had!!

Posted by maddy20 on (July 19, 2010, 10:54 GMT)

@minhaal Nathoo If you have not realized yet, we are talking about test cricket here! Thats is where bowlers have chance to take 20 wickets(2innings x10). As for the ODI thing, India was not thrashed two of the matches were lost with a margin of 5(tendukar scored 176) and 6 runs(Praveen Kumar and Bhajji's last wicket partnership of 87). Try analyzing these facts after you understand what test cricket means!

Posted by Mitcher on (July 19, 2010, 9:55 GMT)

Maddy: I agree with your point that very little can be taken from beating a weak Pakistani side but before you get too carried away with "Come to India" bravado, I would ask how many test series India has won in Australia. Here's a hint, you don't have to be able to count.

Posted by klobania on (July 19, 2010, 6:48 GMT)

maddy plz come out from fools world man wat u r talking abt ozs have already destroyed indian old aged batting line-ups for numerous times n not only in australia but also in india

Posted by Chris_P on (July 19, 2010, 6:05 GMT)

@Gilly4ever. I am interested by your definition of an "appalling bowler" as North has taken 121 wickets in first class cricket to date. Not too shabby for an "appalling bowler" I would suggest. And sure he took some tail end wickets, but doesn't every bowler? He can only bowl to whatever batsmen is at the other end, not his fault if they wanted to smash him out of the ground and got out. Every bowler has their day sometimes, even part time ones, if you any of you have ever played competitive cricket, you would appreciate the highs and lows for both batsmen and bowlers, the difference being is that class bowlers have them more frequently. At the height of their powers, Allan Border took 11 wickets in a match against the West Indies to allow Australia to beat them outright. And Allan Border was a very ordinary bowler, (oddly enough, his only other 5 for in tests was also against them over there). I agree North is unlikely to ever repeat this performance again, it was just his "day".

Posted by tick on (July 19, 2010, 6:02 GMT)

i have watched my team to fail against average spinners..and my assumption is that pakistan is not a good batting side against spinners as india nd srilanka are..paul haaris,rangna hearath,monty panesar,hauritz and now north..kumble and warne were also almost unplayable....and i tel you the reason and its a hard one for my country fellows..pitches in pakistan are not for fast bowling but they are also not for spin bowling..they are absolutely flat and dead....they are not able to play spin with a good technique..

Posted by Sabtain on (July 18, 2010, 16:21 GMT)

And One who watches cricket can't forget when Michael clark took six in India. Anyone can take but anyone can't take six wickets. Most wickets were gifted like Afridi who wanted to hit it for six and after Salman and Umar (only 2) All other belonging to tail.

Posted by Tracer_Bullet on (July 18, 2010, 15:36 GMT)

@popcorn what depth r u talking about.After the retirement of the great Warny I can't see a single world class spinner in the Australian arsenal.I know ur obsession with Nathan Hauritz is never ending but the reality is he has an average of 32 in test & odi's which is pretty poor considering the Australian standards.Even Symonds can turn the ball more than him."The next Shane Warne"....Steven Smith has an avg. of 49 & 40 in FC & LA(ya ya these r his bowling averages).The newly selected O'Keffe 's bowling averages r a mere 27 & 57 in FC & LA.These 3 r just ordinary & there is nothing exceptional about them about.Marcus North is just a part timer & was incredibly lucky to bag those 6 wickets against a Pakistani batting which is very weak & inexperienced.If the Oz bowling is that good what happened to them during the ashes.The real tests will come against India & England.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (July 18, 2010, 15:35 GMT)

North is an appalling bowler. You can't take him seriously. Even as a backup occasional bowler he is terrible. The Pakistan batsmen got themselves out, because of the pressure. It wasn't his bowling. He won't do it again.

Posted by   on (July 18, 2010, 12:24 GMT)

Yo maddy20.. have u alrdy 4gotten when Aussies thrashed india in the odi series 4-2 in india at the end of last year?? And tht was with like a team C.. not even B.. Coz we had replacements for ppl lyk haddin bracken n lee.. these were hilfy siddle n Paine who also got injured and we had to bring stil more replacements n we still beat indias best team!! N yeh i hope ur watching how sri lanka is thrashing India at d moment.. Dude wait for october wen we play 2 tests n watch Aussies thrash India!! We wil show u how we can bowl out ur squad full of old legs twice in less than 4 days!!

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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