Cheer up Australia, there's always the North star
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