Marcus North, the Australian left-hander, passed up a golden chance yesterday to cement his place in the side for the first Test match of the eagerly-awaited Ashes series. Propelled to the front of the queue to bat at No 6 after Shane Watson, the batting all-rounder, suffered another in a succession of injuries, North was out for just one yesterday, after edging the sixth ball of his innings to wicket-keeper Andy Hodd.
North's poor start, coupled with the low-grade quadracep strain suffered by Watson, may prompt captain Ricky Ponting to summon Chris Rogers or Brad Hodge into his squad. Watson is scheduled to return for the game against the England Lions at Worcester, beginning on July 1 but his chequered injury record, North's unfamiliarity with English conditions and the recent poor form of Mike Hussey leaves question marks over the depth of the Australian's batting line-up.
"That has been some of the discussion this afternoon, particularly if we happen to have a batter hurt themselves in this game, we could be a little bit short," said Ponting. "We certainly have to consider that. Shane was probably picked as the spare batter on the tour anyway, and someone who could give us some valuable overs if required, so it could get to the stage if someone happened to get hurt in this game that Shane could probably come in and play as a batsman if required anyway.
"For him it's obviously a setback. He's disappointed that he wasn't available for selection in this game. I don't know if it harms his chances even more for the first Test match but there's an opportunity that's slipped out of his grasp over the next four days. "Hopefully within a couple of days he's right to start back up and work up on his bowling again." Ponting will, privately at least, be also slightly concerned about his own form.
After scores of nought and 25 in his side's dismal World Twenty20 campaign, Ponting will have been eager to spend some time at the crease yesterday but he lasted just 16 balls before edging Luke Wright to Hodd for just eight. Ponting came to the crease after Phillip Hughes, the young opener on whom much rests for the tourists, became the first of Peplar Sandri's three early wickets. A capacity crowd flocked to Hove to get their first glimpse of Hughes, the young left-hander who has taken the Test scene by storm. Hughes scored hundreds in each innings of the second Test match in February against the Proteas but he was undone by a South African yesterday when Sandri clean bowled him for just 15.
Sandri, signed on a one-year contract, later sparked a run of three wickets for the addition of just one run when he had Simon Katich caught at slip just one shy of his half-century. Hussey, for 32, and North, for just one, followed soon after to leave the Australians in trouble at 114 for five. But Brad Haddin, with 69, and Michael Clarke (45) led a mini fightback. @Email:email@example.com