England v Australia, 2nd ODI, NatWest Series, The Oval

Johnson endures miserable comeback

Daniel Brettig at The Oval

July 1, 2012

Comments: 93 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson during net practice, Lord's, June 28, 2012
Mitchell Johnson was preferred to James Pattinson but struggled on his international return © Getty Images
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Given that it was Mitchell Johnson's first game for Australia since November 2011, and in a country where he has suffered more than the usual share of bowling misadventure, Michael Clarke was careful not to criticise his wayward fast bowler. Yet Johnson's difficulties on his return from a long-term foot injury epitomised the struggles of Australia's bowlers against a highly organised England, and scripted another unhappy chapter in his enigmatic career.

Called into the side to replace the injured Pat Cummins, and chosen ahead of James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus, Johnson's first two overs cost 20 and he finished the day wicketless, having also delivered four no-balls and two wides in seven overs that leaked 43 runs. He demonstrated an adjusted approach to the bowling crease and a slightly higher action and gained some swing with the new ball, but overall it was an unpleasant return.

Clarke spoke of the indiscipline of the bowling attack generally, but would offer only praise for Johnson. "He's been very good, he's been high on confidence, he's been bowling really well in the nets," Clarke said. "It's his first game back as well so it's going to take a bit of time, but Mitch was really looking forward to his opportunity today. It was unfortunate we couldn't get a win up, but it is great to have him back around the group.

"You need to be able to control the ball. I think our bowling in general we didn't control the ball enough against good opposition, good batters, on a pretty good wicket. We bowled too many wides and no-balls as well - they're so costly, not only is it a no-ball but you get a free-hit afterwards. So we've got areas we need to improve very quickly, not only with the bat but also with the ball."

Clarke explained that Johnson was considered a more explosive bowling option than either Pattinson or Hilfenhaus and also favoured his left-arm variety to pose different questions for England's batsmen. However the obstacle of facing a team he has had more difficult days against than strong ones, in a country where he is only likely to be ridiculed rather than revered by crowds, did not help Johnson's cause.

"Mitch has been bowling very well in the nets, he's got good pace, as Pat Cummins does," Clarke said. "Pat Cummins has got that x-factor, and we thought Mitch does as well, he's left-arm so he brought something different, and as you've seen today he's swinging the ball."

Cummins meanwhile will fly home tomorrow, after the latest injury in his brief career. Clarke said the decision to send Cummins home was as much about prevention of further injury as cure of the current side strain, but could not hide his irritation at losing another fast bowler.

"He's obviously very disappointed, I don't know how severe it is," Clarke said. "He's going home tomorrow but there's a bit of precaution there as well, we want to make sure we look after him. It's a big loss, not only for the team but for him as well, he was looking forward to spending some time in England and getting some cricket under his belt, so it's frustrating."

Between Johnson's struggles, Cummins' injury and the juggling of six pacemen on a brief tour, it has all added up to a testing job trial for the interim bowling coach Ali de Winter, who has indicated his intention to apply for the fulltime job at the conclusion of the trip. Waqar Younis, the former Pakistan captain and coach, is another contender.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (July 4, 2012, 10:05 GMT)

To the guys that bagged me for saying MJ is useless....Humble pie anyone :-)

Posted by Meety on (July 3, 2012, 23:48 GMT)

@Jono Makim - firstly, I'd go Watto as opener & I do like Wade in the top 3, however, Watto's best performances (except for a couple of innings @ #7), have all been as opener. Just like with Clarke @ #4, I am loathed to "fix" something that IMO ain't broke. With respect to Wade, I often pencil him at #3, he plays in the top 4 for Victoria mostly so is experienced. I have often thought about Dan Christian @ #3 to cash in on his power hitting, & am interested to see how White tracks over the next few 6 mths or so, as I think that would be a good spot for him. As for O'Keefe, your probably right - although at least he is a better bat than Doherty & that would be an improvement if he can match XDs bowling performances. As for Lyon - you are right, I see no reason why he wouldn't become Swann-like in performance over a bit of time. That being said - I am happy NOT to have him in the ODI side as I fear short forms can ruin a spinner (read Harbhajan).

Posted by JG2704 on (July 3, 2012, 21:05 GMT)

@jmcilhinney on (July 03 2012, 06:09 AM GMT) If they are not motivated then it's a bit foolish. Eng winning 5-0 in all honesty is pretty unrealistic but I'm presuming Aus will drop a point with a defeat of any kind and would drop maybe 2 points if they lost by 2 or 3 (3-1,3-0,4-1 - re 1st 2 could be rainouts) and should they drop 2 points then SA and Eng play each other and SA could go ahead of Aus with a decent win. I can't google up the rankings predictor at present so these are educated guesses

Posted by JG2704 on (July 3, 2012, 20:47 GMT)

@straight_drive4 on (July 02 2012, 01:59 AM GMT) 5W was on here throughout the Pak whitewash in tests and India whitewash in ODIs , defending Eng against a multitude of bad comms. I can't remember him commenting much (if at all) during the Pak ODI/T20 series but then we won those so that would go against the fairweather accusations. Also I've not noticed your comms on here before so unless you have quietly been reading but not commenting.. but that would seem unlikely? PLEASE PUBLISH

Posted by A_Vacant_Slip on (July 3, 2012, 18:50 GMT)

Which is better bowler - Finn or Johnson..? er, let me think.... Mind you - MJ does have that "X" factor - Xasperating...! :-)

Posted by   on (July 3, 2012, 14:44 GMT)

@jmcilhinney, true that you've managed to find a passable replacement for KP (though I think Bell will be found out when he has to open the battingwith a quality spinner bowling at him). Aussies were already trying to replace Ponting, so Hussey on top just leaves a really big hole, thank god he'll be back until they can find the right man. @Meety, I think the Aussies need to put Wade into open with Warner and set Watson at 3. This would be in my opinion a very good top three in all conditions. With Clarke at 4 followed by the two Husseys or perhaps Mussey, Maxwell. Who knows, Maxwell may become the next Andrew Symonds. Like you I think we need to look past Doherty but another dart thrower in O'Keefe is not the solution in my opinion. They need to pick Lyon, he spins it, he flights it, he'll take wickets.

Posted by Meety on (July 3, 2012, 11:48 GMT)

@Behind_the_bowlers_arm - mentioned on another thread that I am getting to the end of my patience with Doherty in ODIs. I was however surprised that benchmarking him against Hauritz & Swann - he wasn't too bad. I just am looking for a bit more penetration & maybe O'Keefe could provide that, even though 50 over cricket is his weakest format, & then there is the obvious batting ability.

Posted by Meety on (July 3, 2012, 11:41 GMT)

@jono makim - nope, haven't seen him bowl live at a ground, saw him briefly on TV & I thought he was par (bowling). I put him in the side as I think he would be a step up on DHussey & no worse than Doherty AND given he has a List A batting S/R of 140+, would be a very useful lower order option, bowling 5 or 6 overs a match. @ jmcilhinney - the players we selected for this series, theoretically could get the job done. The Oz side came to win the series (still MIGHT), but haven't been good enough. In situations like this, there will always be conjecture about the strength of the side, in theory the squad is/was full strength at the start of the series with the exception of missing MHussey. Behind_the_bowlers_arm - has valid points about Bailey & Forrest, when there are better options back home in Voges, Ferguson & North, as well as young gun Burns. The point I think that was being made is that the powers that be (rightly or wrongly) are looking at Bailey & Forrest for tests.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 3, 2012, 9:50 GMT)

@Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (July 03 2012, 07:53 AM GMT), your implication that Australia are experimenting with backup players until their real players turn up smacks of denial. While I always take what players and coaches say in press conferences with a grain of salt, Michael Clarke has said that it is Australia's aim to be #1 in all formats. Whether or not it's a realistic aim, I do believe it when he says that it's an aim. Do you really think that he and the rest would be prepared to meekly give up the #1 ranking in ODIs? Some said it was disrespectful to WI when Anderson was rested with the series already won. How arrogant would Australia have to be to think that they could get away with fielding a B team for several full series and stay at the top? If that is the case, which I doubt, then I doubly hope that England win 5-0 and heads roll as a result.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 3, 2012, 9:40 GMT)

@Jono Makim on (July 03 2012, 07:11 AM GMT), you're quite right that any team would miss a player of the calibre of Mike Hussey and you're quite right that Morgan would be a hard man to replace in the England side. That said, England have just lost Kevin Pietersen from their ODI team and they seem to be handling that much better than Australia is the loss of Hussey. Of course, Australia will be getting Hussey back while England won't see Pietersen again, but how much longer will Hussey play anyway? I'm guessing until the next Ashes or, if Australia lose that, the following Ashes at the most.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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