Doug Bollinger picked up 3 for 29 in the second innings
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Marcus North has provided Australia with one answer to their selection problems before the first Test in Johannesburg, which starts on Thursday. A career-best 6 for 69 and a pair of half-centuries was the perfect combination as he competed with Andrew McDonald for the No. 6 spot.
North's success with both bat and ball, and the lack of penetration from the legspinner Bryce McGain on the first day, has increased the chances of Australia taking four fast bowlers into the Wanderers Test. A handy three wickets from Doug Bollinger and a fluent Phillip Hughes
half-century added to the positive signs for Australia as their tour match in Potchefstroom petered out to a draw.
Hughes and North opened in the second innings and both men moved comfortably to half-centuries before retiring to allow McDonald and Brad Haddin some time at the crease. McDonald finished unbeaten on 29 when the captains agreed to call off the match 25 minutes early.
Australia were nominally chasing 226 for victory after North and Bollinger helped knock over the South African Board President's XI for 182. North's success only added to the disappointment for McGain, who took 2 for 126 in the first innings and then was unable to improve in the second as he failed to take the field due to a food-related bout of gastroenteritis that also sidelined Peter Siddle.
A specialist batsman who had never taken a first-class five-wicket haul, North enjoyed the chance to be the front line spinner. His handy offbreaks were one of the major reasons he was picked in the squad and he justified the decision in front of the touring selector David Boon. He tossed the ball up and drew several false strokes and did enough to suggest that he would not be belted out of the attack in a Test, although he still felt he was no certainty to play.
"It was nice to be here and part of my first tour away with the Australian team," North said. "To contribute in the three days was pleasing for myself. If you are part of the 14, I think every player will be looking to push for a place in the first Test. Certainly I'm no guarantee of playing.''
He had top-scorer Heino Kuhn caught at deep midwicket for 47, shortly after Imran Tahir had also holed out to Michael Hussey in the same position. David Wiese mistimed his drive to mid-off and was caught for 18 before Roelof van der Merwe lofted a catch to mid-on. North had earlier made two important top-order breakthroughs.
Alviro Petersen left a gap between bat and pad and was bowled for 36 and Gulam Bodi (29) drove outside off stump, edging behind to Haddin. North's strong performance, including his second-innings 50, made it difficult to see how he could be left out of the first Test. The Wanderers is a venue where spin has not been a major weapon in recent years and the good bowling from Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus meant the selectors would face a tough call if they went for three fast bowlers.
Hilfenhaus bowled well without success in the second innings but Bollinger picked up 3 for 29. Two of his wickets came when he rattled the stumps with perfect yorkers and he also removed opener Blake Snijman, who couldn't get on top of a short ball and pulled straight to mid-on.
Australia's strong effort in the field was all the more impressive as they were so short-staffed that strength and conditioning coach Stuart Karppinen, a former first-class cricketer, was employed as a substitute fielder. Besides McGain and Siddle, several other players also had gastro concerns and Michael Clarke was still unable to field due to his back injury.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo