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Australia aim to remind England of Mitchell Johnson

Petrified. That was the word Kevin Pietersen used to described his own state of mind when he saw Mitchell Johnson rough up Jonathan Trott at the Gabba four years ago. If batsmen the calibre of Pietersen and Trott were in fear, then it was little wonder England's lower-order men - the likes of Stuart Broad and James Anderson - were physically scared as well. There is no Johnson this time, but Australia are confident that Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood can open up the scars.

"There's some cracks underneath the surface with the fellas who've come out here," Nathan Lyon, one of only three Australians remaining from that 2013-14 whitewash, said in Brisbane on Monday. "Alastair Cook, he faced Mitchell Johnson out here. Joe Root got dropped last time he was out here.

"So there are some cracks under the surface that we can hopefully ruffle the surface and crack them right open again and put them under pressure. Our job as the Australian cricket team out here is to put these guys under pressure and make them feel as uncomfortable as possible."

To that end, Australia's fast bowlers have been studying footage of the 2013-14 series, when Johnson was supported by Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle throughout all five Tests.

"The impact that he had, that transcended the cricket field," Cummins said. "It put fear in them, when they were sitting around waiting to bat, in between games they were thinking about him, how they were going to face him.

"The ones that stick out to me are the Gabba and seeing a couple of their bowlers - Stuey Broad and Anderson - from our point of view they looked like they didn't want to be out there. They didn't want to bat. They'd try and swerve away from the balls before he'd kind of even released them. Hopefully we can create that kind of anxiety in them."

Lyon, David Warner and Steven Smith are the only players in Australia's current squad who played in that series, although Harris and Brad Haddin are around the group in coaching roles. And Lyon believes Australia's pace attack is well-placed to challenge England again, with a similar make-up to the Johnson-Harris-Siddle trio that did the job last time.

"Very similar ... looking at Sidds, his length and his pace and control; Johnno was an X-factor; and look at Ryan who could swing the ball around. I think Josh Hazlewood in my book is the best fast bowler in the world, and by a long way; you look at Patty, who's exciting and fast; and then you look at Mitchell Starc as an X-factor. I moved to NSW so I didn't have to play those guys.

"Those guys are exceptional I think our bowling squad is actually quite strong and it's probably the strongest attack we've had in a couple of years, if I'm being brutally honest. To have these guys all up and firing together, it's exciting. I'm very confident that our bowling squad can take 20 wickets."

The official ICC rankings place Anderson as the No.1 Test bowler in the world, while Hazlewood sits sixth. But Lyon believes Hazlewood's versatility makes him a standout in world cricket at the moment.

"He can do anything," Lyon said. "He's quick, he can bowl bumpers, he can control the new ball, he can swing it in and out, he can reverse it. I haven't seen a bowler who's got that control in a long time. I'm happy for you to put it in the headline, he's the best fast bowler in the world."

Although Australia have long dreamt of fielding Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins in the same Test side - the injured James Pattinson is the other fast bowler of a similar age usually bracketed with that trio - it was not until earlier this month that the three men played in a first-class game together, for New South Wales. And if the selectors could have picked any series to be the first, a home Ashes would have been number one on their list.

Cummins is entering his first home Test series, having spent most of his six years as an international cricketer on the injury list, while Starc is fresh from the remarkable feat of taking two hat-tricks in the same Sheffield Shield game. And while Starc is capable of bowling bouncers, his ability to target the stumps, especially against the lower order, is often even more effective.

"I think we'll see a bit of both this summer, at the toes and at the head," Hazlewood said of Starc. "I faced him the other day which was fun. They're definitely coming out fast."