7/17/10

Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes "things are coming together nicely" for his team ahead of the Ashes after they thrashed Pakistan by 150 runs in the first Test at Lord's.

Victory, achieved with more than a day to spare in the opening match of a series being played in England because of security concerns in Pakistan, gave Australia a seventh straight Test win.

It was also their 13th in a row over Pakistan, a new record for one country over another.

There was a twist in the tale of this contest, with Australia part-time off-spinner Marcus North exceeding all expectations by taking a Test-best six wickets for 55 runs on Friday.

This match had already seen medium-pacer Shane Watson take his Test-best of five for 40 in Pakistan's first innings.

Meanwhile Simon Katich, averaging nearly 57 as an opener since returning to the Test side in 2008, continued his fine form with valuable scores of 80 and 83 in overcast conditions that made life tough for batsmen.

Defeat was all too much for Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, who announced his intention to retire from Test cricket after the second and final match of this series at Headingley next week.

But Ponting's focus is on a future which includes regaining the Ashes from England - who start a four-Test series against Pakistan later this month - in Australia when cricket's oldest Test rivalry resumes in November.

England have not won a Test series in Australia since 1986.

"Things are coming together nicely," Ponting told reporters.

"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 star batsman added.

"We've got a few more Tests to play, but things are going well for us."

Australia's Tim Paine and Steven Smith both enjoyed impressive Test debuts.

Tasmania wicketkeeper Paine missed nothing and stumped dangerman Salman Butt to start Pakistan's collapse on Friday while leg-spinner Smith took three for 51.

"It was a great stumping today, one sliding down the leg side behind a left-hander is always a hard one to take," Ponting said of Paine's effort in removing Butt for 92.

"That was a big moment in the game. Butt was playing beautifully and they're the sort of chances you hope your keeper takes.

"I thought he had an outstanding debut, as did Smith, and both of those guys will learn a lot from the experience here."

Meanwhile, Katich was proud of having made 'tough' runs.

"It's nice to get out there and make sure the job gets done, particularly in those conditions," said the 34-year-old left-hander

"You always knew there could be a ball with your name on it out there, so it was nice to get through that period."

Reflecting on his Test revival, Katich said: "I knew it was going to be tough to get back in at my age.

"I've just tried to really enjoy it because it probably wasn't expected. From that point of view, I haven't put too much pressure on myself.

"I've just tried to enjoy each Test match and enjoy winning Test matches, because part of our tradition of playing in the baggy green (cap) is to win Test matches."

He added: "I've been through both eras of Australian cricket, where we were so dominant for so long and now the goal is to get us back up to number one. Hopefully, we're on our way to doing that."