Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 5th day November 29, 2010

Cheer up Australia, there's always the North star

With no consideration of reality, Marcus North has already been tipped as a future captain this summer, and this fantasy paints him as Australia's bowling saviour

Marcus North must be the first name in the XI for Adelaide. If he's dropped for the trivial issue of an absence of runs, how else will Australia get a wicket? With no consideration of reality, North has already been tipped as a future captain this summer, and this fantasy paints him as Australia's bowling saviour.

Don't be so narrow to focus on North's single on Friday or his string of batting failures over the past year. The crucial moment for Australia over the second half of the first Test was Andrew Strauss's stumping. Who was the bowler who delivered the poster ball? That teasing, flighted, wide, drifting, spinning, deadly offering? It was Australia's No.6.

The series is only five days old but already these are desperate times for the locals. Anything is worth a try after seeing how the attack performed. Peter Siddle said before the game the aim was to show it was the best in the world. It wasn't even the most successful in Brisbane. They've got to ask for more from the North star.

Australia's selectors think loyalty to specialist spinners is over-rated, so hand North the role and pick another batsman. On this performance it looks like Australia will need the extra runs over the next four Tests. A tail-ender who makes a century every four games and removes the opposition skipper is invaluable. Let North come out and publicly target Strauss for the rest of the series; let Mitchell Johnson concentrate on aiming for the pitch.

The surface at the Gabba over the final two days provided excellent practice for what should be a similarly barren wicket in Adelaide from Friday. If you're a brave Australian, peek at the scorecard and see that North excelled with 1 for 47 from only 19 overs. Ignore the second-innings total of 1 for 517 declared and search for the positives. Like Coke in the early 1980s, North is it.

Spinners are meant to take wickets in the latter stages of Tests and North got his brilliantly planned breakthrough in the middle session of the fourth day. England were only 188 way back then. Some players, like Doug Walters and Mark Waugh, have that North-like knack of breaking up a partnership before it ruins team morale. Sure, he couldn't repeat the success during the 329-run stand between Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, but he only got seven overs today.

The most trouble Xavier Doherty, the left-armer on debut, created was when he hit a crack two balls in a row before lunch. Sadly, the person in danger was the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin. Well, he would have been if he'd moved down the legside. He didn't and the eight byes added to his 17 for the innings. It was sloppy all-round for the hosts, with five missed chances - some were hugely difficult - and a slew of sundries.

In the eyes of the selectors, Nathan Hauritz became a worse bowler when he was barely used in domestic games in the lead-up to the series. Hauritz's Test reputation has been enhanced by his non-selection. He could be satisfied if it meant he would be considered for a quick return, but the conservative panel would not countenance such a severe back-flip.

Ponting pushed for Doherty, his Tasmania team-mate, and the move showed the captain's desperation to have a bowler who would follow his orders. Hauritz and Ponting clashed over technique and method in India last month and the spinner lost his place. North will also do whatever his leader wants. In his fragile position he has to.

Doherty had Ian Bell caught in the deep when he was hitting out in the first innings and also removed the No.10 James Anderson. In the second innings, he was as damaging as an indoor plant, returning 0 for 107 off 35 overs. Of the nine spinners who have been trialled since Shane Warne retired, Doherty sits in the lowest bracket along with Cameron White and Beau Casson. Solid state bowlers don't help teams win urns.

Hauritz has been the most successful of the "Not-Warney Nine" and has an enviable home record of 38 wickets at 29.65 in nine Tests. But Hauritz isn't going to be in Adelaide and North isn't going to be dropped, so make North the 10th specialist and get on with it. Best to get some use out of him.

North not only out-performed the specialist spinner, he out-bowled the rest of Australia's attack when the game was in the balance. When you look at a glass it can be half-full or half-empty. In this dream, see North's wicket, not his run.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JIGNESH on December 2, 2010, 7:12 GMT


  • Jackie on December 1, 2010, 7:15 GMT

    @dax75:All I'm saying is that Aus faught back to put themselves in a winning position without much pressure (other than when hussey and haddin started batting of the best partnerships I have ever seen!) cos Eng only made 260.Eng on the other hand had to fight back from 220 behind with 2.5 days to go,which generally (against Aus) means you can sweet kiss the test goodbye.@raghu1122000:I didnt mean disrespect to other test series.I dont even support Aus OR Eng (go SA!) but because of the sheer rivalry and history behind the Ashes the importance of any psychological advantage is critical.If Eng had to win this Ashes somehow they could pin Aus down for the next Ashes as well.thats what Aus did to them for 10 years.My prediction for this next game is another draw.Trott,Pietersen and Collingwood will rack up runs for Eng - Punter,Clarke and North to rack up runs for Aus.Good game to watch.If theres a result - it will be cos someone took 5 in a session..maybe swann,maybe siddle

  • Dax on November 30, 2010, 16:49 GMT

    @Hostile J, Almost as good as the Australians being over 120 odd runs down with 5 wickets in hand, to end up 221 ahead. England should have won the game after having Australia in the position they were in, the tail, or if you could call it that, is next to useless with the bat. England underachieved in this test, how come only a few could see that? Australia saved the test, not England.

  • Dax on November 30, 2010, 16:24 GMT

    Ashu123, the Adelaide pitch is reportedly going to be a runfest, oh joy!

  • Raghu on November 30, 2010, 15:44 GMT

    @HostileJ FOR "but this is the Ashes.U cant compare this to any other series in the world"

    The most thrilling matches and the most stunning comebacks... far more difficult than what cook and strauss achieved have been seen in aus vs WI andd aus vd Ind matches in the last 10-15 years.. so sorry dude.. yes for the sake of the history you cannot compare this to anopther series.. for the sake of cricket.. there are other series which have more thrilling contests..

  • Jackie on November 30, 2010, 13:00 GMT

    Fairfan:good point.U could argue that the test bordered on boredom here and there.If I was Strauss I might have made a game out of it by batting faster and declare by the 3rd session of day4,but this is the Ashes.U cant compare this to any other series in the world.The urn is everything to these 2 sides so why jeopardize u'r hold on the prize by trying to achieve a result that seemed highly unlikely by the end of day2?I also think Eng's decision to declare later were justified by the way Ponting and Watson batted in the 2nd dig.Aus wouldve backed themselves to chase anything cos that wicket was so flat,and Eng was well aware of that.Aus have to come out and try and win the 2nd test on the back of a test that they surely thought they had in the bag.few sides come back so strong from 200+ behind and that will stick in Aus's minds!Aus have to come out aggressive in the 2nd test,which could play into Eng's hands.Aus backs to the wall is always dangerous for any side,so this'll be a cracker

  • Steve on November 30, 2010, 10:15 GMT

    Swann usually starts a series quite slowly, he'll be ripping it in the second test. Plus, that was two wickets more than Harbhajan would have gotten on that surface.

  • Raghu on November 30, 2010, 10:06 GMT

    @vichan.. pardon me but refresh my memory.... barring marcus was it the same english side of 2005 ashes win that was crushed 5-0 in australia,,,

  • clarrie on November 30, 2010, 10:04 GMT

    The article should have been titled "cheer up Australia a higher ranked, over -hyped side containing the "worlds best spinner" refused to set you a challenge on the last day of the opening ashes test depsite gaining the initiative on a dying pitch", given Norths inconsistency, Clarkes incapacity and Ponting, Hussey, katichs infirmity wouldnt the man whos chasing Shane warnes test wicket tally be unleashed upon an ailiing Aussie line-up. Apparently not, nor would the fearsome English pace attack that didnt need a practice run at Hobart be backed to seize the initiaitve on a cracking deck. Hypothetically if Australia did win the series by one test would Andrew Strauss reflect on an opportunity lost or would he like most of us comfort himself by reflecting on their being no chance of result on the brisbane pitch where the quality of international fielding was the only loser. Mitchell Johnson had a shocker but rated along side the "fearsome" Swann and Broad, he wasnt so far behind.

  • Morgan on November 30, 2010, 8:22 GMT

    Have people forgotten that it was only recently North needed a "Career saving innings" and he did with a century against India, only to back it up with consectutive scores of less than 5 - His consistantcy is average and just because he got one wicket when the other bowlers couldnt doesnt mean he is instantly the man. Have many Australian fans felt that perhaps, the English batsmen were on fire , and that one mistake lead to a wicket, and that thier bowlers were all striuggling?

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