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July 1, 2012
Features : Balancing act far from elementary for Watson
Report : Bell and Bopara star in simple chase
Features : Bopara enjoys all-round good day
News : Cummins out of England tour
Matches: England v Australia at The Oval
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of England and Ireland
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 hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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