Warne's advice was helpful - Nathan Hauritz
Having picked up his first five-wicket haul for Australia, Nathan Hauritz has declared his intentions to make the spinner's spot his own for a long time to come.
Nathan Hauritz has played ten Tests over the past year but without a sense of security. There has always been the feeling that he was a temporary solution, filling a gap while Australia's selectors decided on their next long-term Test spinner. But after a chat with Shane Warne helped him collect his first five-wicket haul for his country, Hauritz has declared his intentions to make the Test spot his own for a long time to come.
The timing of Hauritz's career-best was important. Last week, the chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch challenged him to become a dangerous fourth-innings bowler and said that while Hauritz was very capable, the selectors would "continue to look for that next group of spin bowlers" who would be part of the team in the coming decade.
That made Hauritz's 5 for 101 in the fourth innings of the Boxing Day Test victory over Pakistan extra special. He knows how quickly a spinner can fall out of favour - since Warne's retirement Australia have used seven slow men in Tests - and has had the legspinner Steven Smith hovering in the shadows over the past two matches.
"The most important thing is not to put too much pressure on myself in those situations," Hauritz said after bowling Australia to a 170-run victory. "I probably have a little bit at times, just trying to get those wickets to try and silence a few people and let people know that I can bowl and I've earned this spot and I'm here for a long time."
Smith enjoyed a one-on-one net session with Warne during the Boxing Day Test and it was Warne's advice that helped Hauritz deliver his best performance. Hauritz said the advice from Warne on the fifth morning was to be patient, alter his lines and force the batsmen to hit the ball where he wanted it to go, not where they wanted to play it.
"Since I've been part of this squad he has been trying to get me ... to get the batsman to hit in areas they don't want to and being able to have the confidence to put the ball in that area," Hauritz said. "When I first started I was quite happy to bowl outside off but have a 5-4 field so they wouldn't play there.
"I'm trying to get batsmen out a lot more now. I didn't bowl as accurately as I normally can at times in this last innings but I definitely bowled more attacking lines and tried to make them hit in areas which they felt uncomfortable. It can be pretty tough at times when you're getting hit back over your head all the time. In the end it worked in my favour being able to get a stumping and getting batsmen trapped on the crease."
His final breakthrough came with a top-edged swipe that was taken at midwicket, giving him his first five-wicket-haul in first-class cricket, while his previous best in Tests was three in an innings. When he began his state career with Queensland he hadn't taken a five-for at club level - he has now - so the feeling of pressure to perform was familiar.
It's not unheard of for bowlers to deliver a five-wicket bag in Tests before state cricket; Jason Krejza had never taken five in a first-class match until his eight-for on Test debut in Nagpur last year. Krejza lasted only one more Test before being dropped but Hauritz, who played a one-off Test in 2004 before waiting four years for his second. He is confident that his best performance is a sign of bigger things to come.
"It's pretty significant," Hauritz said. "It's my first five-for in first-class and Tests. I am very happy to take that five-wicket haul. I hope it is the start of something good. It has been a pretty tough road. There have been good moments and bad moments and this is definitely one that I will remember."
The next step is to continue delivering Test-quality performances and that challenge begins at the SCG, where the second Test starts on Sunday. Despite the ground's reputation for favouring spin, Hauritz has only 16 first-class wickets at 55.75 there, and he was anticipating a good batting pitch once again.
"I don't expect it to be too much different to what it normally is," he said. "It is generally a pretty good batting track for the first few days. The first morning it can offer a little bit, I have seen finger-spinners do well there on the first morning because it is a little bit tacky. I don't expect it to be too much different."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo