Pakistan v Australia 2010

Johnson's woes mirror Australia's

Brydon Coverdale

July 25, 2010

Comments: 51 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson wonders what has gone wrong as his troubles continue, Northamptonshire v Australians, 3rd day, Northampton, July 26, 2009
Mitchell Johnson struggled for wickets in the two-Test series against Pakistan © Getty Images
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As a barometer of the Australian team, Mitchell Johnson is pretty accurate. The same can't be said of his bowling over the past two weeks. It was hard to imagine him having a worse tour of England than the Ashes trip last year but his efforts against Pakistan this month have been, statistically at least, inferior to his work against England.

It is a worry because much of his trouble in 2009 was put down the personal issues Johnson was dealing with off the field, which he himself later admitted was a distraction. There was no such drama on this occasion, so his three wickets at 72.33 against Pakistan - he did not take more than one wicket in any innings - can only be attributed to poor form.

Johnson bowled reasonably well in the first innings at Lord's without much luck, but by the second innings his line was wonky and his threat had disappeared. Not until the final morning of the Headingley Test, when it proved too late for Australia to salvage the match, did Johnson again bowl a challenging spell.

It was notable that Ricky Ponting went to Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus first on the fourth morning in Leeds, when Australia needed seven wickets to pull off what would have been an incredible heist. The ball was not new, so that wasn't the reason for ignoring Johnson, who works better at first change but is nominally the spearhead of the attack.

Johnson was named the ICC Cricketer of the Year for 2009, but when he struggles so do Australia; this trip, the Ashes last year and the tour of India in late 2008 being cases in point. He will continue to work with the bowling coach Troy Cooley in an effort to regain his touch for the series in India and the Ashes later this year, after his form was a factor in Australia drawing 1-1 with Pakistan.

"There's endless work that's always done with Troy and the fast bowlers," the captain Ricky Ponting said after the Headingley loss. "Whether it be what you can see at our warm-up or training, or more often than not back in the change-rooms looking at footage and looking at things they've done well or maybe not done so well through the course of the game.

"We all want to play well all the time, but unfortunately that's not the way this game works. If you're going to win Test matches, you have to have five or six or seven of your guys playing well each game, and we probably didn't have that in this particular Test match."

Not that Johnson was alone in the underperforming attack. Despite the assistance for swing and seam, Bollinger, a hit-the-deck type, finds the English conditions troubling. He was barely a danger to the Pakistan batsmen until the final innings of the series, when he found some extra zip.

Hilfenhaus was the most impressive of the three main fast men, although he was still below his best, while Shane Watson proved the most capable of swinging the ball and was rewarded with 11 wickets. The results will put Peter Siddle, who is on the comeback trail from back stress fractures, and Ryan Harris back in the frame for the Tests against India and England.

"I've said for a while that I think that's the beauty about our squad at the moment, the depth that we've got, particularly in the fast bowling side of things," Ponting said. "Siddle is on his way back and is in very good physical shape, Ryan has had knee surgery and is probably a little bit behind at the moment. When you look at that as a group of fast bowlers, we will be able to come up with a group of guys there that will take 20 wickets more often than not in most conditions."

That they had trouble doing so in favourable conditions this month was a worry; remember, Marcus North picked up six wickets at Lord's. The attack will be more comfortable in their home conditions for the Ashes, but much will depend on Johnson regaining his accuracy.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Posted by ozziefan08 on (July 30, 2010, 10:37 GMT)

@ sonjjay totally agree with you on Peter Siddle but mate he is injured was considered for the pakistan series but couldnt get up for it, Stress fractures in the back take awhile to overcome. Johnson should be sent back to Domestic cricket in W.A where Mickey Arthur is coach now and has helped Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel two good fast bowlers come through SA system. North needs to go if he gets picked for the series in India then I should be a selector rather than the puppets we have now. I think Hussey's time is up in test match cricket as well. Australian selectors we need to be picking the younger kids that perform in domestic cricket now!! The Khawaja's, Bailey's, George's. Plenty of good young cricketers around or we will have another mass exodus of retiree's very soon. Drop Watson to 5 or 6 and I would also keep Paine behind the stumps did a fantastic job in England.

Hughes, Katich, Ponting, Clarke, Bailey/Watson, Smith, Paine, Hauritz, Bollinger, Hilfenhaus, Siddle/George

Posted by sonjjay on (July 29, 2010, 17:30 GMT)

Well there is one very noticeable omission that is Peter Siddle. I dont knw why the aussies sideline him infact i didnt see him in the match against Pakistan, i dont knw if he is inured bt a fully fit siddle sure will add more dimension to the aussie bowling attack. He has the strength of a horse and a workman like approach something our Indian bowlers need to learn from, hits the deck hard and can keep u in the game even on flat pitches. A great prospect bt ignored by the short sightedness of aussie selectors.

Posted by Anneeq on (July 29, 2010, 14:42 GMT)

Iv never understood why Ponting and the Aus selectors perseveres with this guy, there's nothing brilliant about him at all. Bollinger to me is a better bowler than Johnson, and this argument that he's still learning etc is pretty stupid i mean the guys played over 40 tests. Learning time is over, nows the time to prove that ur worth. Its a shame really that Shawn Tait retired from tests, he would be a welcome inclusion for Ponting.Apparently Johnson's supposed to be an allrounder he aint anything of the like!!

Posted by Bayman on (July 29, 2010, 11:03 GMT)

There seems to be two schools of thought here. One, that Johnson is great and just had a bad day and two, that Johnson is essentially rubbish. Personally, I lean toward the second view. Those who claim he is just inexperienced need to remember he's almost 29 and has played 36 Tests. He should just about know what's going on by now. The fact is his action is crap, his line and length are invariably crap and he doesn't seem capable of learning anything at all. I'm sure his trouble today is the same trouble he had four years ago. Hello Mitch, is anyone home? I agree, anyone can have a bad day but Johnson has bad tours. Even McGrath didn't take wickets all the time - but he always bowled well no matter the conditions. Be honest all you Johnson supporters, I bet there are times even you get frustrated at the sheer volume of absolute rubbish he sends down. As for those who say Douggie is a "hit the deck" bowler the answer is simple. Pitch it up, like Watson did, and..wickets!

Posted by bobagorof on (July 28, 2010, 7:46 GMT)

I can't believe the comments saying 'Johnson's still learning, give him time' - he's played almost 40 Tests, plus a number of ODI's, which really should be enough for him to know what he's doing. He has some talent, but he's far too inconsistent and he's not been able to rectify that despite being in international cricket for a number of years. He still sprays the ball and hasn't learnt to swing it, despite working with Troy Cooley (the architect of England's Ashes 2005 triumph, based on swing bowling). So either the coach is not doing his job or Johnson doesn't learn. Maybe he needs to go back to domestic cricket and work on a few things. I also agree with the need to shake up the batting order - it's looking pretty fragile these days with 'the greatest batsman since Bradman' averaging around 40 over the last few years and definately on the decline. Move Watson down the order and start the transition to a new lineup by blooding a youngster or two.

Posted by Okakaboka on (July 28, 2010, 1:58 GMT)

What about Wade as Keeper. He is a better bat than Haddin and Paine....Could potentially be as good as Gilchrist. He is younger than Paine and maybe a slightly better keeper. I suppose this is arguable but he is a hell of a lot better than fumble fingers Haddin. Wade and Paine should be 1 & 2 keepers. Both are potential guns..especially considering their age.

Posted by manasvi_lingam on (July 27, 2010, 15:38 GMT)

Mitchell Johnson is still relatively inexperienced and he will learn. However he needs to be more committed and give his all: like Bollinger. An attack comprising of Bollinger, Hilfenhaus and one among Stuart Clark, Siddle and Johnson doesn't sound bad. However to use Watto to his full potential he needs to move to 5 or 6. I'm not convinced by North's batting or even his bowling. I think Khawaja would be the better option. Watto, Katich, Punter, Clarke, Khawaja, Hussey, Haddin, Hauritz, Johnson[?], Hilfenhaus, Bollinger is the best team at the moment.

Posted by Andy_P on (July 27, 2010, 12:54 GMT)

Too right Behind_the_bowlers_arm. What made McGrath so great was not just his wickets, but the pressure he applied through his economy, paving the way for other bowlers to pick up wickets too. Take a look through Stuart Clarks record and aside from one poor innings last ashes, he took valuable wickets and applied almost the same amount of pressure. Just look at the impact he made at Leeds last year! I don't care how old he is. With that record, he deserves more of a chance, while with Johnson's record, he's already had too many chances.

I'd love to see the selectors actually learn from history. Why they feel the need to find a new formula is beyond me. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Bringing back Clark as a senior and experienced bowler, along with his economy and McGrath-like abilities, would be a substantial influence on Bollinger and Hilfenhaus. We never needed a super-express bowler in the past and don't need one now.

Posted by Fan84 on (July 27, 2010, 10:56 GMT)

MItch has always been a great bowler for the Aussie team, he is most liked by his skipper, for his ability to bowl at a speed exceeding 150kmph even with a "oldest" ball ,, that too in test ..he has proved himself, maybe he didn't bowl good this time, but i wish him good luck next winter and tour of india, I always Surprise,, how great RICKY PONTING and his confidence of batting first even during his must win games,,that is OZ,, they are WORLD CHAPMS,Tat's teh confidence he has on his batsmen and bowlers like him, tait , bastmen like "Great' Watson and ofcourse himself.. go aussie,, this is ur fan from CALCUTTA INDIA,,,

Posted by landl47 on (July 27, 2010, 6:47 GMT)

Johnson had a bad tour, but he's that kind of bowler. When he's good he can be a matchwinner, but when he's bad he goes for a lot. What he needs is a steady, accurate bowler from the other end and in this series he didn't get it. Bollinger was a complete bust with the new ball and although Hilfenhaus was the best of the three, he still wasn't consistent. Harris or Siddle might be better, but forget Clark, he's too old, and Bracken has never been a test match bowler. When you take into account the lack of form of Australia's top 6 batsmen, and Ponting's erratic captaincy, Australia's going to struggle against a good England team in the Ashes series.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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