Friday 28 October 2016

Fiery Johnson leaves England in a shambles

Stephen Brenkley

Published 20/07/2015 | 02:30

Mitchell Johnson celebrates an England wicket as Joe Root looks on
Mitchell Johnson celebrates an England wicket as Joe Root looks on

Everything has suddenly gone wrong for England. In the space of a week they have veered from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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What happened yesterday was not so much a defeat as a mauling. Australia drew level in the Ashes series with a ruthless, crushing victory by 405 runs. The tourists said they would be back after the unexpected loss at Cardiff and this was the most conclusive evidence that they were not kidding.

On a tame pitch which barely altered in character, Australia made a total over their two innings of 820 runs for the loss of 10 wickets in this second Test; England mustered 415 for the loss of all 20.

At the very least England should have taken the contest, if that was what it was, to a fifth day. The fourth was again calm and bright and Australia seized it. In the morning they scored runs almost as and how they wanted, 146 of them from 23 overs.

In the afternoon they brutally dismantled England's batting and in their hands the surface looked dramatically different. At 4.41 it was all done.

If England asked for a benign surface, intended to negate their opponents' faster bowlers - and they denied it afterwards - then it rebounded on them spectacularly. Truly fast bowlers can operate on any pitch.

England now have to take a gamble and hope that something more typically English, on which the ball may nibble around off the seam, will close the gap.

There are questions to be asked about England's top-order batting to which the selectors have to find swift answers. If the same top four roll up to Edgbaston next week, Australia will be delighted.

Gary Ballance and Ian Bell, both look vulnerable and one or both should go, even though there is not a queue round the block knocking down the selectors' door to replace them.

This is the third series this year in which England have taken a lead only to lose the following match. In the two other cases it was the final Test, in this one there are three matches to go and Australia are now rampant.

It is not only their batsmen who looked inferior. Australia's bowlers, helped obviously by having so many runs at their disposal, were much more assertive. They were, in a word, faster.

Mitchell Johnson again looms large in the English psyche and he was irrepressible yesterday, scenting English blood in his nostrils.

England began their improbable pursuit shortly before lunch. It was a minor triumph in the context of all that happened that they managed to survive the three overs available. Nine balls into the afternoon session the first breach was made.

Adam Lyth received a snorter of a ball from Mitchell Starc which he might have left but edged behind again. It was Alastair Cook or nothing now and when the captain wafted at Johnson, trying to cut a ball he should have left alone, the end was nigh.

Ballance, after a cursory stay, fell to Mitchell Marsh's first ball, Bell nudged to short leg one from Nathan Lyon which turned and lifted.

Nothing epitomised England's sorry state more than the dismissal of Ben Stokes. Called for a quick, perhaps ill-advised, single by Joe Root, he was run out by a direct throw from Johnson because he failed to run in his bat.

The rest followed in short order as Johnson worked up a head of steam.

"Credit to Australia, they put us under pressure and we weren't able to deal with it," said Cook.

"We didn't bowl with the same discipline and control. Over the last few games, we have been three down for 40-odd and that is an area of concern.

"We have to take this on the chin. Now it's about the character we need to show to bounce back. We came up short this week." (© Independent News Service)

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