Pakistan v Australia, 2nd MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Headingley

Ponting wants frontliners to front up

Brydon Coverdale at Headingley

July 20, 2010

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Ben Hilfenhaus made the first breakthrough when he removed Imran Farhat, Pakistan v Australia, 1st Test, Lord's, July 14, 2010
Ben Hilfenhaus was the pick of Australia's man quicks at Lord's as the part-timers stole the show © Getty Images

The paint has barely dried on the neutral honour board at Lord's, but already Ricky Ponting is hoping to get more from his bowlers in the second Test at Headingley. Shane Watson and Marcus North were the first two entries on the new bowling board under the headline "other", to represent neutral Tests, and it's also a fair description of their place in Australia's attack.

In swinging and seaming conditions, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger collected six of the 20 wickets and with the potential for overcast weather again, there should be further assistance in Leeds. Johnson bowled well in the first innings but lost his radar in the second, while Bollinger struggled to find any movement.

It was the only area in which Ponting was less than fully satisfied during the 150-run victory, which extended Australia's winning streak against Pakistan to 13 Tests. There were no centuries from the batsmen but in trying circumstances, they still performed much better than their Pakistani counterparts.

"If you want to be critical you can probably look at the fact that we got 11 wickets out of Watson and North in the game," Ponting said. "Our fast bowlers probably tried a little bit too hard I think in conditions that were suiting the quicker bowlers. I think they probably tried to get a bit too much out of the wicket.

"That can happen here [in Leeds] as well because you know that this place is a place that can nip about a bit for the seamers - we've spoken about that a bit. Otherwise I was pretty happy, our fielding was pretty sharp, I don't think we put any chances down. It's just more about getting your head back around playing good solid Test match cricket again."

On a Headingley pitch likely to be tough work for the batsmen, the Australian pacemen will be licking their lips at the prospect of attacking Pakistan's middle order. Umar Amin and Azhar Ali both showed glimpses of promise at Lord's but will be in only their second Test, while Umar Akmal is talented but also lacks experience.

Kamran Akmal is the only member of the batting group who has played a Leeds Test, four years ago, and he fell twice to Sajid Mahmood for 20 and 0. Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan both made big hundreds in that game and although there is the possibility they will be called upon for the series against England, Pakistan will have to make do with their fresh-looking line-up this week.

"Their batters are not that used to batting in conditions like that," Ponting said. "When you are brought up in Pakistan you don't generally see the ball seam around and swing around like it did last week. With the inexperience they have got in their batting, their No. 3 and No. 4 spots, guys making their debut last week, we feel we can get the Akmals pretty early as well when they come in if we expose them at the right time."

The one man that will worry the Australians slightly is the new Pakistan captain Salman Butt, who made 63 and 92 at Lord's, where Ponting said Butt batted as well as he had ever seen from him. With the added pressure of captaincy, Butt will be key for Pakistan with the bat and marshalling his troops in the field and Ponting said the best way of bruising his confidence was to get him out cheaply.

"If any pressure needs to be put on him this week it's going to be with what we do with the ball," Ponting said. "I think we were a little bit off the mark with what we did with the ball to him last week and he hit a lot of boundaries. I think his first 50 in the second innings he hit 10 or 11 boundaries, so we've got to stop that."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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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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