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Ponting backs struggling North, Siddle

Australian skipper Ricky PontingHOBART: Australian skipper Ricky Ponting has done his best to quell the growing pressure on struggling duo Marcus North and Peter Siddle, as Australia eyes a record-equalling 12th straight defeat of Pakistan.

Ponting backed both middle-order batsman North and bustling paceman Siddle, as they attempt to overturn lean summers in the third Test, starting on Thursday at Bellerive Oval.

A 12th consecutive win, dating back 10 years against Pakistan, will equal Sri Lanka’s record of a dozen straight victories over a single opponent, in its case Bangladesh.

But while the match is a dead rubber with Australia holding a 2-0 series lead, there is more at stake than just setting a record Test streak over the tourists.

With a tour of New Zealand looming in March, the starting places of North and Siddle would be vulnerable with more failures in Hobart.

Ben Hilfenhaus, Australia’s best bowler in the Ashes series defeat and man-of-the-match in the first Test of the summer in Brisbane, would deserve to return at Siddle’s expense if he overcomes a knee injury.

But North, 30, is under as much scrutiny after scoring 186 runs at 23.25 in five Tests this season.

Ponting, also desperate to turn around a rare dry spell, spoke at length with North at the SCG, as Mike Hussey inspired Australia’s amazing escape act in the second Test.

“I think we’re both feeling the same about the game at the moment, it sort of feels like the game’s got hold of us both and won’t let us go,” Ponting said.

“Talking to him about it, it sort of feels like every little mistake we’ve made tended to mean that we’re out and to sit back and see some other batsmen make mistakes (and get away with them), it can be a bit frustrating.”

Ponting has urged the Western Australian left-hander to back his game and not look at the third Test as a make-or-break occasion.

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