Mike Holmans July 20, 2009

Who is the weakest link?

At 23, Broad is still young enough to be classed as a promising up-and-coming player who has not yet mastered his trade, whereas Johnson is 27 and should be approaching his best
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Mitchell Johnson had a match to forget © Getty Images
 

Are Test matches won or lost? The immediate reaction to a match usually focuses on the outstanding performances which can be said to have won it, but I often find it instructive to look at the weakest links which might be said to have lost it. Specifically, I have a hypothesis that you learn most about the difference between two sides by looking at their fourth-best bowlers.

Few substantial Test innings involve less than four bowlers. If you like, they form the four walls surrounding your castle. If the fourth wall is a rickety wooden fence rather than solid brick or concrete, then the cavalry can plunder through and run riot, negating the sturdy resistance being mounted around the rest of the compound. A fourth bowler who restrains batsmen as well as a colander holds soup allows the batting side the luxury of blunting the edge of your best bowlers and just waiting until the runs flow again, whereas a fourth bowler who manages to contain and even take important wickets allows no let-up – which means the batsmen have to take risks against the top men, thus increasing their chances of getting out to them.

At Lord's these last five days, Stuart Broad was England's fourth bowler and Mitchell Johnson Australia's. Broad's match figures were 34-4-127-3 and Johnson's 38.4-4-200-3. Broad's performance was of the not-too-bad variety while Johnson's was somewhere between poor and awful. Since England won, this is an observation of data which confirms the Fourth Bowler Hypothesis (or, to be more rigorous, does not disprove it).

At 23, Broad is still young enough to be classed as a promising up-and-coming player who has not yet mastered his trade, whereas Johnson is 27 and should be approaching his best. Broad's imperfections are therefore more to be expected and offer less cause for major concern than weaknesses in Johnson's game.

England have given try-outs to several young or youngish pace bowlers in recent years: what makes Stuart Broad stand out ahead of most of them is his steady absorption of lessons. On Saturday morning, he ran in and bowled bouncer after bouncer at Nathan Hauritz and Peter Siddle and was treated with as little respect as his poor execution deserved. It was nothing like the chin music with which Fred Flintoff has been serenading Phil Hughes – it was short-pitched dross. Even so, there was a big difference between that spell and the kind of tripe which was served up by the likes of Liam Plunkett, Saj Mahmood and Chris Tremlett: it was deliberate. It may not have been the best of plans and it may not have worked, but at least he was bowling to one. What a captain wants most from any bowler is that he should bowl to the field which has been set, and the best thing about Broad right now is that he is obviously doing his utmost to fulfil that requirement.

Mitchell Johnson, on the other hand, was clearly driving his captain to distraction at Lord's. He was nothing like the electrifying destroyer who had taken South Africa's batsmen apart over the winter. He had no control of length or direction, so his opening spells against Strauss and Cook on Thursday opened the gates of the Australian castle, let down the drawbridge and said “Come on in and pillage our gold.” He it was who allowed England to carry on building momentum after the great Cardiff escape, a momentum which carried England through to victory despite the lack of self-belief which saw them surrender the initiative on Sunday to such an extent that it was easy to imagine Australia setting a record for chasing which would be likely to stand for decades.

This is not an attempt to write Johnson off. Whereas the drop-off in Phil Hughes's performances since South Africa is owing to a weakness being identified and ruthlessly exploited, Johnson's deterioration is purely a loss of form. If or, more likely, when he recovers his composure and control, he will once again be a formidable bowler, but he needs to do so fast if he is not to be dead weight taking up space in the team which could be used far better by someone else in this series.

If the hypothesis is correct, then a comparison of fourth bowlers ought to shine a spotlight on how difficult the respective selectors' jobs are. Broad's problems are not so serious that they cannot be accommodated with the expectation that the experience he gains today will serve him well in years to come, whereas if Johnson continues in this vein he could lose the series for Australia.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • yadav on July 25, 2009, 3:25 GMT

    OK article !!!!

    @Oblomov > you just spoke my mind. Johnson's action reminds me of Ashish Nehra. Hay Australians, just hope he won't fade away as Nehra did. But it would be great for cricket if he doesn't.

    Just as australians thinking of putting Clark in, english selectors must keep in mind that Flintoff can break down any time and bring Harmison in for Broad so that australians get no respite in the field. I realise that he hasn't got great record against Australia but he is in good form at the moment and he can be devastating when on song. And what about bringing in Chris tremlett for Graham onions? That guy doesn't look like taking test wickets against australia. This could be a devastating bowling attack and not the current one @ Freddie flintoff

  • Patrick on July 24, 2009, 4:17 GMT

    Johnson has bowled poorly and has been disappointing but the criticism of him has been hysterical. For the series, his bowling average is better than most of the other specialist bowlers: Anderson, Broad and Swann for England and Siddle for Australia. His batting average is also better than some of the batters: Hughes and Hussey for Australia and Flintoff, Bopra and Broad for England.

    Summing up most of the coverage from the tests so far is a lilting coverage: first test Australia are unbeatable and England should give up; second test Australia are weak and fatally flaw and England are unstoppable. I suspect that much rests on a knee and whether a left hand can lift higher at the crease.

  • shirish nanavati on July 24, 2009, 2:17 GMT

    I have read tons of material on the second test. While there are many reasons for England to win, including terrific performance from Flintoff, the key player were the umpires. How so? How can any team produce runs when three key guys are incorrectly given out at the most crucial stage of the match! Funnily no one mentions this key point. I rest my case. Shirish Nanavati.

  • Walter on July 23, 2009, 19:22 GMT

    @ Freddie_Flintoff at July 22, 2009 8:48 AM

    Do you suffer from short term memory loss? I reacall the aussies posting 675/6 against your devastating attack.

    As for the article at hand, I think there is some merrit in this comparison. Even though Broad had the 4th best figures his return was much better than Johnsons. The fact that Mitch is the spearhead of the aussie attack is reason for some concern. I believe if Mitch goes back to basics..and stops trying to sling the ball as hard as he possible can he'll click back into form and then the English will have thier work cut out for them.

    I personally think that the English should be really careful from now on..as the aussies bite back hard..as the showed in SA not so long ago..

  • Samjay on July 23, 2009, 19:04 GMT

    I wonder if cricket analysts have a metric for poor captaincy. Ponting has been pretty unimaginative for most of his career; it is just that great players had made Australia the No. 1 team despite of that. This factor is more dominant than anything else, in my opinion.

  • oblomov on July 23, 2009, 13:44 GMT

    just have to say that i never rated Johnson and it has come as no surprise to me at all to see him fall apart. His action is terrible and he gets most of his wickets with rubbish balls that make the batsmen's eyes light up. He is quick and strong but cannot move the ball in to the right. He will never be remembered as a 'great'.

  • Jeff on July 23, 2009, 11:50 GMT

    Isn't there a case to say that the "4th bowler" should actually be the sum of all bowlers other than the top 3?

    In this case, Australia's "4th bowler" was Johnson/North/Clarke who took 4 for 286 in in the match vs England's "4th" of Broad/Onions/Collingwood who took 6 for 247.

    Clearly the Aussie "4th bowler" performed worse than Englands but i'm not sure this was the case of the defeat.

    If you take the opposite view and look at the performance of the "top 3" bowlers for each team then the results are just as striking.

    The Aussie top3 took 11 for 408 and Englands took 14 for 351

    This gives the following figures:

    Strike Rates Aussie 4th = 94.8 England 4th = 60 Aussie Top 3 = 59.9 England Top 3 = 47.1

    Economy Rates Aussie 4th = 4.5 England 4th = 4.1 Aussie Top 3 = 3.7 England Top 3 = 3.2

    Looking at this, you could argue that the reason England won was because the top 3 Aussie bowlers actually bowled like a number 4 bowler...

  • WinniePooh on July 23, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    I mentioned the most prominent in my post, but perhaps you don't care for Atherton's opinion.

  • anil on July 23, 2009, 11:35 GMT

    its strange. suddenly your premier bowler looks like weakest link even he has taken 8 wickets in ten math. from my point if view, openers from australia should be called weakest link as they fail to deliver as unit. if batting clicks you can win matches or draw them, but you cant loose a game like this australian team

  • WinniePooh on July 23, 2009, 10:15 GMT

    Andy Cronk, having read an AWFUL lot of the press as mentioned in my article previously, your fourth bowler theory still looks like distinct shoe-horning to me considering that it is a five bowler attack and basically the press has so much form on trying to compare Broad and Johnson you are just adding to a very, very long list of shoehorns

    [Mike: It's not Cronk's theory, but mine, and it's not a new theory: I first started comparing the fourth-best bowlers on each side during the 2005 Ashes.

    If you want to maintain that Johnson and Broad were not their respective sides fourth-best bowlers in terms of actual performance (Onions was better than Broad in I1 and Swann in I2), then you have interesting criteria. As it happens, I cannot recall a single article comparing Broad with Johnson. Still, I'm sure you'll be happy with your rant.]

  • yadav on July 25, 2009, 3:25 GMT

    OK article !!!!

    @Oblomov > you just spoke my mind. Johnson's action reminds me of Ashish Nehra. Hay Australians, just hope he won't fade away as Nehra did. But it would be great for cricket if he doesn't.

    Just as australians thinking of putting Clark in, english selectors must keep in mind that Flintoff can break down any time and bring Harmison in for Broad so that australians get no respite in the field. I realise that he hasn't got great record against Australia but he is in good form at the moment and he can be devastating when on song. And what about bringing in Chris tremlett for Graham onions? That guy doesn't look like taking test wickets against australia. This could be a devastating bowling attack and not the current one @ Freddie flintoff

  • Patrick on July 24, 2009, 4:17 GMT

    Johnson has bowled poorly and has been disappointing but the criticism of him has been hysterical. For the series, his bowling average is better than most of the other specialist bowlers: Anderson, Broad and Swann for England and Siddle for Australia. His batting average is also better than some of the batters: Hughes and Hussey for Australia and Flintoff, Bopra and Broad for England.

    Summing up most of the coverage from the tests so far is a lilting coverage: first test Australia are unbeatable and England should give up; second test Australia are weak and fatally flaw and England are unstoppable. I suspect that much rests on a knee and whether a left hand can lift higher at the crease.

  • shirish nanavati on July 24, 2009, 2:17 GMT

    I have read tons of material on the second test. While there are many reasons for England to win, including terrific performance from Flintoff, the key player were the umpires. How so? How can any team produce runs when three key guys are incorrectly given out at the most crucial stage of the match! Funnily no one mentions this key point. I rest my case. Shirish Nanavati.

  • Walter on July 23, 2009, 19:22 GMT

    @ Freddie_Flintoff at July 22, 2009 8:48 AM

    Do you suffer from short term memory loss? I reacall the aussies posting 675/6 against your devastating attack.

    As for the article at hand, I think there is some merrit in this comparison. Even though Broad had the 4th best figures his return was much better than Johnsons. The fact that Mitch is the spearhead of the aussie attack is reason for some concern. I believe if Mitch goes back to basics..and stops trying to sling the ball as hard as he possible can he'll click back into form and then the English will have thier work cut out for them.

    I personally think that the English should be really careful from now on..as the aussies bite back hard..as the showed in SA not so long ago..

  • Samjay on July 23, 2009, 19:04 GMT

    I wonder if cricket analysts have a metric for poor captaincy. Ponting has been pretty unimaginative for most of his career; it is just that great players had made Australia the No. 1 team despite of that. This factor is more dominant than anything else, in my opinion.

  • oblomov on July 23, 2009, 13:44 GMT

    just have to say that i never rated Johnson and it has come as no surprise to me at all to see him fall apart. His action is terrible and he gets most of his wickets with rubbish balls that make the batsmen's eyes light up. He is quick and strong but cannot move the ball in to the right. He will never be remembered as a 'great'.

  • Jeff on July 23, 2009, 11:50 GMT

    Isn't there a case to say that the "4th bowler" should actually be the sum of all bowlers other than the top 3?

    In this case, Australia's "4th bowler" was Johnson/North/Clarke who took 4 for 286 in in the match vs England's "4th" of Broad/Onions/Collingwood who took 6 for 247.

    Clearly the Aussie "4th bowler" performed worse than Englands but i'm not sure this was the case of the defeat.

    If you take the opposite view and look at the performance of the "top 3" bowlers for each team then the results are just as striking.

    The Aussie top3 took 11 for 408 and Englands took 14 for 351

    This gives the following figures:

    Strike Rates Aussie 4th = 94.8 England 4th = 60 Aussie Top 3 = 59.9 England Top 3 = 47.1

    Economy Rates Aussie 4th = 4.5 England 4th = 4.1 Aussie Top 3 = 3.7 England Top 3 = 3.2

    Looking at this, you could argue that the reason England won was because the top 3 Aussie bowlers actually bowled like a number 4 bowler...

  • WinniePooh on July 23, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    I mentioned the most prominent in my post, but perhaps you don't care for Atherton's opinion.

  • anil on July 23, 2009, 11:35 GMT

    its strange. suddenly your premier bowler looks like weakest link even he has taken 8 wickets in ten math. from my point if view, openers from australia should be called weakest link as they fail to deliver as unit. if batting clicks you can win matches or draw them, but you cant loose a game like this australian team

  • WinniePooh on July 23, 2009, 10:15 GMT

    Andy Cronk, having read an AWFUL lot of the press as mentioned in my article previously, your fourth bowler theory still looks like distinct shoe-horning to me considering that it is a five bowler attack and basically the press has so much form on trying to compare Broad and Johnson you are just adding to a very, very long list of shoehorns

    [Mike: It's not Cronk's theory, but mine, and it's not a new theory: I first started comparing the fourth-best bowlers on each side during the 2005 Ashes.

    If you want to maintain that Johnson and Broad were not their respective sides fourth-best bowlers in terms of actual performance (Onions was better than Broad in I1 and Swann in I2), then you have interesting criteria. As it happens, I cannot recall a single article comparing Broad with Johnson. Still, I'm sure you'll be happy with your rant.]

  • WinniePooh on July 23, 2009, 10:12 GMT

    C'mon guys, this is practically a wind-up article. All during the lead-up to the series the press and the fans have been trying to place the Ashes as some sort of shoot-out between Broad and Johnson (even Mike Atherton in the Times compared them) so you can hardly expect that sort of stuff to stop just because the series has started. Shoe-horning like this is only to be expected.

    And yes, Johnson is actually less experienced than Broad at first class cricket, took it up later and hasn't had the kind of cricketing 'cradle' that Broad has had.

  • John Ide on July 23, 2009, 3:37 GMT

    Firstly, what the hell are the Aussie selectors doing picking crocks for the tour and leaving Doug Bollinger behind? Mike Holman does have a good point, especially that Broad picked up BOTH Haddin and Johnson swinging wildly to Broad's bouncers, so that strategy worked at a crucial time and assured a lousy score for Australia. Johnson just had a rotten match, why? who knows. The other point about the 2nd test was North was selected as a bowler who can bat well. His bowling was almost useless. The quicker Stuart Clark or Shane Watson (SHOULD be Bollinger!) is on the field, the better their bowling attack will look. The Selectors should look at recent history. They selected Cameron White in the 3rd test in India last year, Ponting didn't bowl White at all and Australia lost the match because they didn't have the necessary bowling attack. In the recent 2nd test and the test in India, the selectors left out a natural pace bowler for a weak spinner who played little part in the match.

  • jalps on July 22, 2009, 17:22 GMT

    Regarding your comments on Mahmood, Plunkett and Tremlett, all three have better strike rates (56.5, 66.8 and 66.0) and averages (38.10, 39.82 and 29.69) than Broad (73.1 and 40.04). This despite Broad having the advantage of playing against NZ and the Windies, against whom he's picked up 35 of his wickets, who are currently ranked 7th and 8th amongst Test nations. Broad, like Flintoff, looks good and bowls economically but struggles to take wickets. I can't see why they're playing both in the same side.

  • Akshay on July 22, 2009, 13:32 GMT

    I hope mitch does not go the Irfan Pathan way. The occasional strokeplay compounded into the heavy burden of being an all rounder, which destroyed his bowling, the swing and the zing was gone completely. I see that happening with Johnson. He should drop the idea of being an allrounder all together. The South Africa tour saw him improvising with the inswinger, an addition to his armory. But he has been nothing but ordinary against england, which with all due respect is a far easy opposition that South Africa. Also you see a bit of arrogance in his body language, very different from the young man outstretching his arms and thanking heavens for every single wicket.

    Good luck Mitch.

  • Andy Cronk on July 22, 2009, 12:55 GMT

    I would suggest that most of you actually read the article rather than ignore the point and get heated up about comparing Johnson to Broad. In every test match there are generally 4 bowlers (at least). One of them on each team has the 4th best figures for the match. Mike's hypothesis is that if the 4th best bowler on one side concedes less runs than the 4th best bowler on the other side then the team with the better 4th bowler is likely to win as this bowler will (logically using their figures) apply less pressure and allow the opposition to score more runs. It is not about comparing Broad with Johnson as cricketers, it is about comparing their figures in one match. Perhaps it would have been easier for you all if he had called them Aus4 and Eng4 and not used names. A valid point was made about England using 5 bowlers but this has been the Australian way since Waugh, and no-one seems to have realised that without Warne another bowler is needed. Is it that hard to understand?

    [Mike: Fifth (and sixth...) bowlers tend to bowl very little, unless you're talking about totals of 500+. The luxury of having five bowlers is that since it's quite likely that one of your bowlers is going to have a bad match, the one who's bowling badly can be relatively hidden.

    As with almost any tool of analysis, the 4BH is of limited usefulness, but the aim is to compare areas of weakness where most tools are aimed at comparing areas of strength. Cricket is as much about exploiting opponents' weaknesses as making the most of yopur own strengths.]

  • ndigits on July 22, 2009, 11:04 GMT

    And this comes when I was wondering why does Broad warrant a place in this English side?Comparing Johnson to Broad is like comparing Onions(Not the G.Onion) to Apples. Johnson just had two rough games and his overall record is far far better than Broad. Broad would be about 12th choice as a bolwer in any other Test playing line up(Ok probably except Bangladesh and Current WI). He is neither a front line bowler nor has done anything significant with the bat to warrant a place as an bowling all-rounder. However, I have been reading a lot of English Press off- late so these kind of comparisons do not shock me. P.S. I am not an Australian.

  • Freddie_Flintoff on July 22, 2009, 8:48 GMT

    Stuart Broad is a much better cricketer than Mitchell Johnson. Johnson is the best bowler of a team which has a hopeless bowling attack. Hence he gets more wickets than Broad who is the worst bowler of a devastating bowling attack.

  • Doug Kotter on July 22, 2009, 7:30 GMT

    Okay - there are a lot of people who will probably throw stuff at me for saying this. I agree that clark MUST come in - frankly, I'm stunned he hasn't got a trundle already - he's a Glen McGrath clone - to not play him at Lords? That's just idiotic. What I'd say is, if you're going to drop someone to make way for him, don't drop someone who's a class batsman and a useful part-time bowler (North) - drop someone who's woefully out of form and slot in someone who's in form and can do the job. Haddin has shown us that he can open - let's move Haddin to #1, not #6 - drop Hughes and bring in Stuey.

  • John on July 22, 2009, 6:22 GMT

    Your theory does not apply to Johnson who came into the test match as the Number 1 bowling, not the fourth best. So compare Broad with Hilfenhaus who is lower than Siddle and Johnson.

  • Marcus on July 22, 2009, 6:19 GMT

    Maybe it's just a matter of being loyal to another Western Australian on my part, but I think dropping North is a bad idea. Yes, he had a bad Test at Lord's, but he wasn't the only one. He also scored a century in Cardiff, he's proven that he can play under pressure (whether under team pressure- see his debut, or personal pressure- as in his 191 in the tour match). Dropping a man after one bad game- well, there's a word for that, and it's called "scapegoating." And I don't think any team's going to stay at the top for long if they approach selection with that mindset.

  • PM on July 22, 2009, 3:28 GMT

    At least in tests, Chris Tremlett bowled very well against India. Broad has bowled more tripe than Tremlett and is largely over-rated. Harmison should have played instead of Broad.

  • Adith on July 22, 2009, 2:00 GMT

    There is a small yet important point that you've ignored in your analysis. England had 5 bowlers. If you take Flintoff out of the equation, there was a good chance that Australia would have got to the target. Australia had 4 main bowlers to choose from, one of which Johnson, had a lousy game. Englad had 5 of which 3 had a great game, one average (Broad) and the fifth (Onions) a lousy one.

  • redneck on July 22, 2009, 1:19 GMT

    johnson didnt have a good test but can i just point out he still has taken more wickets than any english bowler this series

  • steve on July 21, 2009, 23:32 GMT

    I agree with alot of points and comments made here. The selectors should think about moving haddin up for north johnson to 7 and bring in clark, i wouldnt drop johnson just yet, i agree that johnson bowled terrible but he is too valuable to give up on yet, he still has got 8 wickets in the 2 tests and made a valuable 69 in the 2nd dig. I would like to see the aussies be a bit clever and bring in the 5th bowler, i also agree the umpiring was really bad and the indians should learn how to react to umpiring decisions that dont go your way by the way ricky handled it. Well done ricky. Aus will still win series 2-1

  • Freddie on July 21, 2009, 23:25 GMT

    gph, mfundo and nasir still don't seem to quite understand, the 4th bowler theory has absolutely nothing to do with bowling style or when the bowler bowls...whether he takes the new ball or is 3rd change medium pacer...the analysis is based entirely on the bowlers figures...and according to the figures and definately according to the evidence i gained whilst watching the test Johnson is definately the 4th aus bowler...and im even an australian writing this...i saw mitch against SA and i just want to know who swapped this imposter for that firebrand.

  • Ivan on July 21, 2009, 20:53 GMT

    The problem with Mike's article is not the idea of 4th-bowler analysis - which is interesting - but the analysis itself, which is based on a mistake. Stuart Broad was not England's 4th bowler at Lord's, but the 5th. The 4th bowler was Graham Onions, with figures of 20-1-91-3 - a lot fewer overs than Broad (or Johnson) but a more worrying economy figure.

  • D.V.C. on July 21, 2009, 19:23 GMT

    Mike, yeah. Ideally, we would have someone like (an on form) Lee as the senior bowler and Johnson as No. 2. I think part of Johnson's problem at the moment is the pressure he is under to lead the attack, for someone who has his level of experience that's a big deal.

  • Jahanzeb on July 21, 2009, 18:10 GMT

    couple of bad games and everyone is losing faith in Johnson, this guy took 61 wickets in 12 tests prior to the Ashes, HE IS NOT A 4th Bowler for Australia in recent times he has been there best. on top of that he still managed to contribute with the bat in the second innings. This guy is a genuine allrounder dismissing him as a poor bowler after 2 bad outings is a huge mistake.

  • D.V.C. on July 21, 2009, 17:52 GMT

    "At 23, Broad is still young enough to be classed as a promising up-and-coming player who has not yet mastered his trade, whereas Johnson is 27 and should be approaching his best."

    Broad has played 58 first class games, Johnson 49. Your assertion that Johnson should be at the peak of his powers seems to be based on age alone. He actually came into fast bowling quite late. Thus I don't think it is right to suggest he should be at the peak of his powers. He is in fact still gaining experience and honing his trade. A year a go he was Australia's 3rd pace man, now he is supposed to be leading the attack. Do you expect Broad to be leading the attack in a year?

    [Mike: In which case, Johnson ought not to be the attack leader - is that what you're saying?]

  • gph on July 21, 2009, 16:20 GMT

    @andy: the point is that, although Johnson's figures were the worst of the aussie bowlers, he is nonetheless the team's striker. discussing him under the topic of 'fourth-best bowlers in test teams' ignores the fact that he is aus' first-best bowler.

    if he struggles, there's little use comparing his figures with those of eng's fourth-best, and this is because aus rely on johnson to do a job far greater than that reserved for change bowlers like broad. assessing the difference between the two is therefore spurious. aus were beaten in large part because mitchell johnson bowled a lot of filth - he did not strike early; he did not intimidate; he leaked runs; in short, he just does not look like taking the wickets he is selected to take.

    the difference between the two sides i feel has very little to do with the fact that johnson's figures were worse as a fourth seamer in comparison to eng's fourth bowler.

  • Pterw on July 21, 2009, 15:12 GMT

    Just because Johnson is 4 years older does not mean he is a vastly more experienced practitioner. Broad has played 19 tests and 58 first class matches whilst Johson has 23 tests and 49 first class matches. Not much difference in terms of cricketing experience at the top levels. Even though it is widely acknowledged that Johnson is not bowling well at the moment he has still taken more wickets, and at a superior strike rate, than Flintoff, Anderson or Broad.

  • gph on July 21, 2009, 14:39 GMT

    Completely agree there with gph, It is ridiculous idea by the author, Compare Johnson with Board,just to support his theory.

  • Andy Cronk on July 21, 2009, 14:02 GMT

    Mfundo and nasir, I think you've missed his point, it's not their type of bowling and team position that determines the fourth bowler, it's their bowling figures at the end of the match. Ergo Johnson was Australia's fourth bowler and Broad was England's. As an Englishman I hope Tone's considered view is ignored as Australia would look a much better line-up with Clark and Johnson and moving Haddin up the order.

    [Mike: Thank you, Andy, that was indeed my point. In the 2005 Ashes, for instance, Matthew Hoggard was usually the fourth bowler despite always taking the new ball. Australia's current problem is that their fourth bowler is supposed to be their number one - at least England's fourth-best bowler is someone you would expect to occupy the position.

    The point of this hypothesis of mine is that it points up where you are leaking runs and allowing batsmen to get themselves set: if the fourth-best bowler only ships 3.1/over, you're probably keeping a lot of pressure on the whole time, whereas if he's going for 5.9, batsmen have opportunities to relax.]

  • Vikram Maingi on July 21, 2009, 11:52 GMT

    No comments about North, Watson or Lee but Jonson certainly deserves to be in the team. It is just a bad patch and he needs one good session to come out of it.

  • nasir on July 21, 2009, 11:28 GMT

    Completely agree with Mfundo. Johnson is Australia's strike bowler as Flintoff is England's. A comparison of the performances of these two is a much better illustration of why Australia lost this match.

  • gph on July 21, 2009, 10:32 GMT

    I don't quite agree. Johnson's not the Aussies' fourth bowler. He's their first. So if, to use your analogy, he is off song, it's not like having the opponent run through a rickety fence. It's more like the opponent running through the sturdiest granite defences. Consequently, Johnson doing badly would have a greater impact on Aus than Broad doing badly would have on England. And precisely because when he's good, he is superior to Broad when Broad is good, contributing more to Aus success than Broad does to English success.

    The Aussie selectors' job is tougher than their English counterparts' because Johnson is the attack's spearhead; Broad is a change bowler. The Aus selectors would prefer a wayward Siddle to a wayward Johnson, just as Eng selectors would prefer a wayward Broad to a wayward Flintoff.

    Lastly, to suggest Johnson could single-handedly lose the Ashes for Aus is a bit dramatic. To suggest that the Aus attack rests entirely on Johnson is short-sighted and untrue.

  • Mfundo on July 21, 2009, 9:17 GMT

    Comparing Broad (who's a genuine 4th bowler and one who looked as threatning as a toothless hyena) to Johnson ( who's an opening bowler who's not only lost his mojo but may have lost his place to Lee) does not prove your 4th bowle theory because Johnson by definition is not a 4th bowler. You'd be better suited comparing Johnson to Flintoff, and Broad to Siddle. I hope the Aussies stick with Johnson and swap (not drop) North for Watson as Lee and Clark are not match fit

  • Tone on July 21, 2009, 6:48 GMT

    Great opinion piece Mike. I think the fourth bowler/weakest link theory is especially valid in this case because (a) Aust. doesn't have a back-up medium-pacer like Collingwood; and (b) Ponting hasn't been inventive with using part-time spinners.

    It seems ridiculous that Johnson's place is in threat, but under these circumstances Australia has no plan B, and can't afford to carry him through this loss of form. Hopefully he'll come good in the tour match.

    Everyone is suggesting a straight swap with Johnson for Clark or Lee ... but maybe the selectors should be more imaginative here and give Ponting another "plan B". What if they drop North for an extra quick? Yes, North's made a century, but his form is lacking and his bowling doesn't look threatening - M Clarke and Katich could do that job. Then Haddin can bat at six, Johnson at seven, and the other tailenders can bat well. Your top six should be doing the job with the bat anyway.

    Just a thought for discussion. Any other ideas?

  • Justin on July 21, 2009, 4:08 GMT

    It's really up to Johnson to see whether he can bounce back. Phil Hughes has been disappointing, but I don't think he will be dropped during the series, he needs to work on the areas and needs a bit of luck his way, like most batsman. Given how inexperienced the Australian bowling lineup is, think they need to consider whether to drop Marcus North, push Haddin and Johnson up a slot and bring in Stuart Clark, for some consistency and experience.

  • chatfields revenge on July 21, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    Stuart clark!! better strike rate, average and temperament, play johnson as an allrounder 2nd change bowler ... better option than watson who doesnt have a test hundred. Goodbye Brett Lee ...you dont have the history against england...wake up selectors!!1

  • Amare on July 21, 2009, 1:27 GMT

    I think you should have mentioned the umpires, their inefficiency and lack of consistency - It is not Flintoff that should be retiring it is Rudy and Billy - they are now fit for the deaf and blind school of umpires !!!!

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  • Amare on July 21, 2009, 1:27 GMT

    I think you should have mentioned the umpires, their inefficiency and lack of consistency - It is not Flintoff that should be retiring it is Rudy and Billy - they are now fit for the deaf and blind school of umpires !!!!

  • chatfields revenge on July 21, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    Stuart clark!! better strike rate, average and temperament, play johnson as an allrounder 2nd change bowler ... better option than watson who doesnt have a test hundred. Goodbye Brett Lee ...you dont have the history against england...wake up selectors!!1

  • Justin on July 21, 2009, 4:08 GMT

    It's really up to Johnson to see whether he can bounce back. Phil Hughes has been disappointing, but I don't think he will be dropped during the series, he needs to work on the areas and needs a bit of luck his way, like most batsman. Given how inexperienced the Australian bowling lineup is, think they need to consider whether to drop Marcus North, push Haddin and Johnson up a slot and bring in Stuart Clark, for some consistency and experience.

  • Tone on July 21, 2009, 6:48 GMT

    Great opinion piece Mike. I think the fourth bowler/weakest link theory is especially valid in this case because (a) Aust. doesn't have a back-up medium-pacer like Collingwood; and (b) Ponting hasn't been inventive with using part-time spinners.

    It seems ridiculous that Johnson's place is in threat, but under these circumstances Australia has no plan B, and can't afford to carry him through this loss of form. Hopefully he'll come good in the tour match.

    Everyone is suggesting a straight swap with Johnson for Clark or Lee ... but maybe the selectors should be more imaginative here and give Ponting another "plan B". What if they drop North for an extra quick? Yes, North's made a century, but his form is lacking and his bowling doesn't look threatening - M Clarke and Katich could do that job. Then Haddin can bat at six, Johnson at seven, and the other tailenders can bat well. Your top six should be doing the job with the bat anyway.

    Just a thought for discussion. Any other ideas?

  • Mfundo on July 21, 2009, 9:17 GMT

    Comparing Broad (who's a genuine 4th bowler and one who looked as threatning as a toothless hyena) to Johnson ( who's an opening bowler who's not only lost his mojo but may have lost his place to Lee) does not prove your 4th bowle theory because Johnson by definition is not a 4th bowler. You'd be better suited comparing Johnson to Flintoff, and Broad to Siddle. I hope the Aussies stick with Johnson and swap (not drop) North for Watson as Lee and Clark are not match fit

  • gph on July 21, 2009, 10:32 GMT

    I don't quite agree. Johnson's not the Aussies' fourth bowler. He's their first. So if, to use your analogy, he is off song, it's not like having the opponent run through a rickety fence. It's more like the opponent running through the sturdiest granite defences. Consequently, Johnson doing badly would have a greater impact on Aus than Broad doing badly would have on England. And precisely because when he's good, he is superior to Broad when Broad is good, contributing more to Aus success than Broad does to English success.

    The Aussie selectors' job is tougher than their English counterparts' because Johnson is the attack's spearhead; Broad is a change bowler. The Aus selectors would prefer a wayward Siddle to a wayward Johnson, just as Eng selectors would prefer a wayward Broad to a wayward Flintoff.

    Lastly, to suggest Johnson could single-handedly lose the Ashes for Aus is a bit dramatic. To suggest that the Aus attack rests entirely on Johnson is short-sighted and untrue.

  • nasir on July 21, 2009, 11:28 GMT

    Completely agree with Mfundo. Johnson is Australia's strike bowler as Flintoff is England's. A comparison of the performances of these two is a much better illustration of why Australia lost this match.

  • Vikram Maingi on July 21, 2009, 11:52 GMT

    No comments about North, Watson or Lee but Jonson certainly deserves to be in the team. It is just a bad patch and he needs one good session to come out of it.

  • Andy Cronk on July 21, 2009, 14:02 GMT

    Mfundo and nasir, I think you've missed his point, it's not their type of bowling and team position that determines the fourth bowler, it's their bowling figures at the end of the match. Ergo Johnson was Australia's fourth bowler and Broad was England's. As an Englishman I hope Tone's considered view is ignored as Australia would look a much better line-up with Clark and Johnson and moving Haddin up the order.

    [Mike: Thank you, Andy, that was indeed my point. In the 2005 Ashes, for instance, Matthew Hoggard was usually the fourth bowler despite always taking the new ball. Australia's current problem is that their fourth bowler is supposed to be their number one - at least England's fourth-best bowler is someone you would expect to occupy the position.

    The point of this hypothesis of mine is that it points up where you are leaking runs and allowing batsmen to get themselves set: if the fourth-best bowler only ships 3.1/over, you're probably keeping a lot of pressure on the whole time, whereas if he's going for 5.9, batsmen have opportunities to relax.]

  • gph on July 21, 2009, 14:39 GMT

    Completely agree there with gph, It is ridiculous idea by the author, Compare Johnson with Board,just to support his theory.