Ex-Australian captain says England have lost the mental advantage in the Ashes after being bowled out for 187 at the WACA. He also thinks Ian Bell should be moved up to England’s number 3 after another impressive performance.
Mitchell Johnson has rated his devastating return of 6 for 38 as better than his career-best haul against South Africa here two summers ago. But despite swinging the ball further than he ever has, he said he wasn’t even trying to curl it into the pads of England’s right-handers.
“I think it’s a bonus,” he said of the shape that helped him pick up the lbws of Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood before lunch on the second day. The dismissals were part of a damaging burst of 4 for 7 in 27 balls that started England’s fall for 187, and he finished off the tail to gain his second-best Test figures.
The performance surged Australia back into the series – they had a lead of 200 at stumps – but Johnson isn’t expecting to swing the ball in every innings and was thankful for a helpful breeze. “I like to run in and try to hit the wicket hard,” he said. “When the ball does swing, it definitely puts doubts in the mind of the batsmen.
“I haven’t got all my wickets bowling inswingers to the right-handers. I do get the ball to go across right-handers and get nicks. When I swing it back in, it definitely helps me pick up more wickets.”
For the second time in three innings against Australia, Ian Bell arrived at the crease with his team in the throes of a crisis. For the second time in three innings, he responded as if he’d come armed with a picnic blanket and hamper. At Brisbane on the first day of the series the score had been a wobbly 4 for 125, with the Gabbatoir throbbing at the prospect of another Pom pounding; today it was 4 for 94 – or 4 for 16 in the seven overs since Mitchell Johnson had located his inner hornet.
Bell, however, faced both situations with the insouciance of a man strolling to the wicket at 4 for 452, the scoreline which had greeted him for the third of his performances, at Adelaide a fortnight ago. His first scoring shot came from his second delivery at the crease, an exquisite drive through mid-off as Ryan Harris offered him a length that his dancing feet turned into a half-volley, and all throughout Johnson’s onslaught, Bell alone possessed the technique to deal with his devastating late swerve.
Three innings, three scores between 53 and 76, and three glimpses of a player who looks, stroke for stroke, the most compact and accomplished batsman on either side – more technically correct than the run-harvester Alastair Cook, more composed than Michael Hussey, the fidgety colossus of Australia’s campaign to date. And more brimful of form and focus than Ricky Ponting, the only man on either side who can lay a claim to true greatness.