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July 24, 2010
Ricky Ponting knows his batsmen let the team down in both innings at Headingley, but he is not yet considering the idea of Steven Smith taking Marcus North's position at No. 6. North was easily the most disappointing of the top six during the series, scoring 36 including two ducks, and only the No. 11 Doug Bollinger had a lower aggregate.
North made a century and a 90 on the tour of New Zealand in March, but since the start of the Australian summer his big scores have become less frequent. Smith, on the other hand, lit up the Headingley stadium with a dazzling 77 on the third afternoon to keep Australia in the match, and in his 15 first-class appearances he has made four centuries.
One of the main selection queries for Australia on their tour of India in October will be whether they can find a way to retain Smith when Nathan Hauritz returns from injury. However, Ponting does not believe Smith is ready to challenge for a more senior batting role and he said the conditions had made it difficult for North and the rest of the batsmen this month.
"I don't think Smith will put pressure on North," Ponting said. "I thought the runs we got out of Smith yesterday were pretty entertaining and very valuable as far as the game is concerned. You can look at all of our batsmen through this tour, we've faced some pretty challenging conditions at different times. Both innings at Lord's the ball went around a fair bit, the first innings here was probably the most challenging conditions that any of us have batted in."
Simon Katich was the only member of the team to average more than 35 during the series, as the Australians failed to find answers to Pakistan's terrific swing bowling. The 349 they compiled with the help of Smith in the second innings in Leeds was their highest innings of the series, but Ponting also felt that in sunny conditions it was the time when they let themselves down.
"I was a little bit disappointed with our batting yesterday," Ponting said. "I thought we probably had the better of the batting conditions yesterday, and we had a chance to get a few more than 349 in the second innings. We let a little bit of an opportunity slip there. But the way we stuck at it late last night and this morning showed some character."
The ball won't swing and seam as much during their two Tests in India, or for the Ashes back home, so the selectors might be hesitant to judge the batsmen on their tricky tour of England. Whatever they decide, Ponting believes the XI chosen for the first Test in India will not necessarily be a pointer to the team for the Gabba Ashes opener.
"What the conditions probably do throw up over there [India] is the likelihood of maybe having to tinker with the setup in your team," Ponting said. "We'll wait and see who we've got that's fit and ready to go for that tour and pick a squad of players we think can win a Test series over there and then worry about the start of the Ashes after that."
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