North says he owed Australia a century

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Australia batsman Marcus North said he felt he owed Australia a century after helping steer his side to the brink of levelling the Ashes.

Updated: August 09, 2009 12:40 IST
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Australia batsman Marcus North said he felt he owed Australia a century after helping steer his side to the brink of levelling the Ashes and sending England to their heaviest home defeat.

North's 110 in the fourth Test at Headingley here on Saturday was the centrepiece of Australia's 445 in reply to England's meagre first innings 102.

By stumps on Saturday's second day, England had collapsed to 82 for five in their second innings - still needing 261 more runs to make Australia bat again.

It all left Australia on the verge of a victory inside three days that would see the Ashes-holders level the five-match series at 1-1 and England contemplating their heaviest home loss to their oldest rivals.

In 1989, Australia beat England by an innings and 180 runs at Trent Bridge, a record that could well disappear on Sunday, as could England's heaviest Test defeat against any opponents - the innings and 226 run reverse inflicted by the West Indies at Lord's in 1973.

At least England won't surpass their all-time record Test defeat of an innings and 332 runs against Australia at Brisbane in 1946.

North made 96 on Monday in the drawn third Test at Edgbaston before getting out when Australia had all but assured themselves of a draw, with vice-captain Michael Clarke seeing them to safety with a hundred.

Here the roles were reversed, with North scoring a third hundred in only his sixth Test after sharing a stand of 152 with Clarke, who made 93. North was seven not out overnight, having faced 42 balls.

But unlike many batsmen of his generation, the 30-year-old Western Australia left-hander was content to bide his time rather than fret if he went several balls without scoring.

"Playing at the WACA (in Perth) over the last couple of years, we've had a few sporty wickets," North explained. "As a batter you need to be quite disciplined to score runs there.

"I was pretty pleased I stuck with it and did it for the team. I let the team down a little bit at Edgbaston where James Anderson bowled very well to me. I wanted to make things right and felt that I did that last (Friday) night.

"By doing that it set me up and I got the rewards," said North who has now scored 349 runs at an average of nearly 70 in this series.

Another boon for Australia came with left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson showing signs of the form that made him a match-winner during this year's 2-1 Test series win in South Africa.

Johnson took three wickets for 21 runs in 10 overs on Saturday, including a purple patch of three for one in 14 balls that played a key role in an overall collapse which saw five England wickets lost for 20 runs on 14 balls.

"All players have their ups and downs and we know he's had a difficult month, but he showed great signs at Edgbaston," said North.

"He's worked very hard at his game and he got the ball swinging late, like in South Africa. It's great to see a guy getting the rewards he deserves."

England's Stuart Broad took Test-best figures of six wickets for 91 runs in 25.1 overs, but these were of little consolation to the pace bowler.

"We're disappointed with the way we've made the same mistakes with the bat as we did in the first innings," Broad said.

However, Broad insisted that if England lost this match, they could still win at The Oval, where the fifth and final Test starts on August 20 and so regain the Ashes after their 5-0 thrashing in Australia in 2006-07.

"We've had two average days of Test cricket but we've had four or five months of really good Test cricket. It's not something you lose overnight.

"We're still a very confident bunch of players. We just need to make sure we play positively tomorrow (Sunday) and move on to The Oval."

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