After years of being consistently on the fringes of the national set-up, Marcus North's chance came when he was picked in Australia's squad for the 2008-09 tour of South Africa, and he scored a century on debut in the first Test at the Wanderers. He had impressed the selectors with his ability to prosper on difficult pitches - his offspin also helped his cause - and it was just reward for one of Western Australia's most reliable performers. Having started with a vital 117 as Australia's batsmen struggled in the opening match, he scored another 38 runs in three innings and picked up two wickets to show his part-time bowling value. Instead of appearing in the third Test, he spent the opening day sick in hospital, but stayed for the one-day series when Adam Voges pulled out. He also went to the United Arab Emirates via Hampshire to cover for Shaun Marsh, failing twice in the ODIs against Pakistan.
The 2009 Ashes was the series for his most accomplished performances at Test level, which included an unbeaten 125 in Cardiff and back-to-back returns of 96 and 110 in Birmingham and Leeds. He also had five scores of 12 or less to highlight his strange hit-and-miss tendency, and his life was made harder by being the main spinner in the decider at The Oval. Back in Australia for his first local Test experience, North was soon struggling and his position was in doubt after only 207 runs in six Tests against West Indies and Pakistan.
Under immense pressure, he went to New Zealand, immediately fixed a damaging technical glitch and picked up 112, 9 and 90 in the two-Test series. "It was a pretty defining couple of innings for my career," he said. However, he faltered again with the bat in the series against Pakistan in England, although he managed to get on the honour boards at Lord's with 6 for 55 in the second innings.
A well-organised left-hander, North was afflicted by a casual attitude in his initial seasons with Western Australia as he made the transition from decorated youth player to senior squad member. He had significant success at under-age level, having been a member of several Academy and national junior sides and an elite scholar in 1998. He is particularly well remembered for a remarkable double of 200 and 134 at Sheikhupura during an Australian Youth team's tour of Pakistan in early 1997. His debut at first-class level came in 1998-99 on an Academy tour of Zimbabwe, and he quickly showcased his potential upon his elevation to senior interstate ranks the following season, hitting a brave 60 to help his team to a tense win over South Australia.
For several years he rode an outstanding form streak, which began in 2003-04 with 984 runs in the Pura Cup and a century against Zimbabwe for Australia A. He followed with Pura Cup tallies of 826, 712 and 680 before a knee problem struck. Often a dangerous one-day player as well, North blasted 115 from 85 balls in a limited-overs game against Tasmania in 2006-07. North's special talents were recognised by Western Australia when he was handed the state's captaincy for 2007-08, only to miss much of the season with a degenerative knee condition. It was January before he could actually take up the on-field leadership and his Pura Cup campaign was limited to 184 runs at 26.28 from four games. He had a strong county season with Gloucestershire and was picked for Australia A's tour of India in September 2008.
Cricinfo staff July 2010