WORCESTER // Marcus North has urged detractors of his teammate Phillip Hughes not to make too much into the Australia opener's failures ahead of the first Ashes Test, a point also reinforced by Steve Harmison, the batsman's nemesis so far. The 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 the England's discarded paceman in the final warm-up match in Worcester.
North, who scored an unbeaten 106 on Friday to cement his place at No 6, said Hughes had coped well with the short-pitched deliveries which came his way in South Africa earlier this year and would not 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 [Harmison] who is one of the tallest blokes in world cricket. He's always going to get a bit of bounce," North justified.
"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 more than 69 after his first three Tests, scored just seven and eight in the match and saw his technique questioned for the first time. Hughes was out 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's dismissals in the last two innings, but that doesn't count for anything," said Harmison, who had a match haul of six for 135 in the two innings. "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," he added. The 30-year-old fast 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. Harmison also defended his teammate Andrew Flintoff after he was criticised for missing the team bus as the players went to the Flanders War Graves in Belgium on a team-bonding trip. "Andrew is a fantastic all-round cricketer and is somebody that this country needs to do well because of what he stands for in this country," Harmison said in his defence. "He is a larger-than-life character, and if he gets on a roll he will take 18,000 people with him at Cardiff next week.
"A lot of the stuff that has been said about him is untrue. We keep kicking our big sportsmen and it is horrendous. "In a few weeks time, if he is holding a stump in the air after winning the Ashes, we will all be clapping our hands and saying Freddie's brilliant," Harmison said. Flintoff was man of the series in 2005 when England beat Australia for the first time since 1986-87. He was also captain of England when they subsequently lost the Ashes 5-0 in 2006-07.
* with agencies