December 7, 2013

The Ashes 2013-14

Johnson thrives on the threat of the bouncer

Mitchell Johnson's performance on the third day at Adelaide Oval will live long in the memory, but Greg Baum writes in the Sunday Age that it should not be remembered solely as a "blood-on-the-pitch" spell.

Yet it is too simple to dwell on Johnson's powers of intimidation. Englishman RC Robertson-Glasgow once wrote of Don Bradman: "Poetry and murder lived in him together." All seven Johnson wickets here were from full-pitched balls. Four were bowled, two caught behind the wicket and one was lbw, the first and only of the series. He did not spare the bouncer, but the threat of it did more damage than the actuality.

Andy Wilson in the Observer considers the way Johnson has bounced back from the cutting and cruel mockery he received from the Barmy Army in previous Ashes.

But there is also the fact that he seems such a thoroughly good bloke. Perhaps not when he's at the top of his run with the ball in his hand, or snarling at Jimmy Anderson after dismissing him for a golden duck. But Johnson was affable, engaging company as he waited for a couple of coffees at the stall behind the Sir Donald Bradman Stand after Australia's net session on Wednesday morning. The express bowler really did order a double espresso, honest, and didn't blink an eye when the teenage girl behind the counter, surely one of the few who has remained unaware of the most recognisable moustache in the land, asked what name she should shout out when it was ready.

In the Sun-Herald, Malcolm Knox argues that England's capitulation has been all the more disappointing because they have played so far below their potential.

There have been substandard England teams before, but none quite like this since 1958-59, when a team of champions came to Australia and lost 4-0. The teams that lost eight Ashes series between 1989 and 2003 generally played to the limit of what their abilities and the overwhelming talents of their Australian opponents allowed them. This time it's different: these English players are substantial Test cricketers who recently defeated Australia 3-0 and have glittering records. It is hard to think of any team that has performed so far beneath its potential. It is nowhere near the worst team to leave England, but unless the players can turn this around, it will be one of the worst to leave Australia.

And Stephen Brenkley in the Independent on Sunday suggests that this England outfit appears to be finished as a force.

There are few able replacements, none proven and, bizarrely, most of the batsmen may have to survive. Matt Prior and Graeme Swann may fear the knock on the door from the selector, but dropping them would be no kind of answer. Doing nothing, however, in the wake of what is likely to be two heavy defeats is not an option in big-time cricket if credibility is to be preserved.

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