Aussies on right track
Australia cricket captain Ricky Ponting is of the view that the bowling performance of all-rounders Marcus North and Shane Watson in the recently concluded Lord's Test against Pakistan highlights the increasing versatility of the squad's bowling attack in the run-up to this year's Ashes series.
Watson claimed five wickets in the first Pakistani innings for about 40 runs, while North chipped in with a match winning six-wicket haul in the second. Pakistan lost the Test by 150 runs on the fourth day.
"Things are coming together nicely. Without being silly, we've all got one eye on stuff that's happening later in the year and these steps this week have been good ones in the right direction as far as keeping on improving our Test cricket," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Ponting, as saying.
"We've got a few more Tests to play yet, but things are going well for us. The encouraging sign for us is having that depth, so if injuries or form or whatever plays a part, we know we've got a real good core group of players that are going to lead Australia forward in all forms of the game," Ponting added.
North is the fourth member of Australia's top six to have picked up a five-wicket bag in Test cricket, joining Watson (5-40), Simon Katich and Michael Clarke.
"I certainly don't think that I'm a No.1 spinner or anything like that, but I feel comfortable in the role I can play for Australia," North said.
"I feel that given the ball I can contribute, I'm not just there as a spare part. I feel I can genuinely be a wicket-taking option and complement the other bowlers around me," he added.
With Steve Smith in the line-up, Australia boasts the ultimate in variety in its spinning ranks.
The young New South Welshman bowls leg-spin, North is an off-spinner while Clarke (left-arm finger spinner) and Katich (left-arm wrist spinner) complete the set.
On the quick bowlers, Ponting said they must show more patience in the second and final Test at Headingley, starting Wednesday.
"I really think it was a fact of both those guys really trying too hard knowing the conditions offered quite a bit for the faster bowlers," he said.