Marcus North has urged detractors of Phillip Hughes not to make too much into the Australia opener’s failures against England’s back-up bowlers ahead of next week’s first Ashes Test.
Highly-rated Hughes has just four days to solve the dilemma of how to handle the predictable bouncer barrage heading his way in Cardiff after twice being found out by England’s discarded paceman Stephen Harmison in this final warm-up match in Worcester on Friday.
But North,who scored an unbeaten 106 here yesterday at New Road to cement his place at No.6 in Australia’s batting line-up for Cardiff,said Hughes had coped well with the short-pitched deliveries which came his way in South Africa earlier this year and wouldn’t be intimidated facing England at Sophia Gardens.
“I wouldn’t read too much into his two dismissals in this game. He was facing a guy that is one of the tallest blokes in world cricket. He’s always going to get a bit of bounce,” North told reporters after stumps.
“If you look back to the first innings I’d be surprised if that ball didn’t get a lot of us out.”
Hughes,the New South Welshman who averages over 69 after his first three Tests,has been found wanting against the short-pitch bowling served up by Harmison and Graham Onions,scoring just seven and eight in the match and seeing his technique questioned for the first time.
Having been roughed up and dismissed by Harmison over the wicket in the first innings,the 20-year-old Test novice’s technique was also exploited when the bowler switched to round-the-wicket in the second.
Hughes was again out in a similar fashion each time,fending chest-high deliveries to the slips and gully,but Harmison urged England’s bowling attack not to underestimate the talented newcomer.
“There’s a lot been made of Phillip Hughes’ dismissals in the last two innings,but that doesn’t count for anything,” said Harmison,who had match figures of six for 116 from 37 overs at stumps on day three.
“He’s got an idea of where people are going to bowl at him … but he’s got four or five days to put things right. I’m sure he’ll come back strong.”
The 30-year-old express bowler also warned his England colleagues to avoid bowling too short too often at Hughes. “There’s a difference between me bowling short balls and other people bowling short balls because the lengths do vary,” he cautioned.
North was the only one of Australia’s top seven without both a half-century in the drawn tour opener against Sussex at Hove last week and the first innings of this match.
But a watchful innings in tandem with Michael Clarke – the pair put on 170 for the fourth-wicket to see the Australians to 276 for four by stumps – erased any lingering doubts about his Test place following three successive failures.
North,who turns 30 later this month,has just two Test matches to his name but has plenty of first-class experience with Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield and five different counties in England.
“I felt that it was only going to be a matter of time before my hard work off the field translated into the game,” he said.