The Ashes 2010-11 November 18, 2010

Cooley backs 'awkward' Johnson to lift


Troy Cooley is confident there will be no repeat of Mitchell Johnson's Ashes meltdown this summer, despite his disappointing recent Test form. Cooley is entering his last months as Australia's bowling coach, having been named the new head coach at the Centre of Excellence, and he is keen to finish on a high after the disappointment of 2009.

One of his major challenges in the lead-up to next week's first Test at the Gabba is to help Johnson, who in Australia's past two Test series has taken only 11 wickets at 43.45. His form in the one-day series against Sri Lanka was poor, but in a major Test series, and in familiar conditions, Cooley expects Johnson to cause England's batsmen some problems with his pace and bounce.

"Mitch brings a nice set of skills to our team and we accept that with his action, he's not going to get 100 balls in the right area at the right time," Cooley told ESPNcricinfo. "But the other strong components of his game come to the front and that's why he's taken wickets, that's why he's such an awkward bowler to face.

"Our pitches definitely suit his style of bowling. He hits the deck hard, he's got a good quick bouncer and if it swings one day, it does; if it doesn't, well, he's found ways of getting wickets without having to be an out-and-out swing bowler. I think he's pretty comfortable with that."

Johnson's miserable Test at Lord's last year, where he finished with match figures of 3 for 200 and completely lost his radar, was a key factor in Australia losing the Ashes. At least Johnson might take some confidence from his batting form; at the MCG on Thursday he struck his second first-class century against a Victorian attack that picked off Michael Hussey and Marcus North cheaply.

While Johnson has been in Melbourne this week, Cooley has been in Hobart coaching Australia A against England, who have already sent their frontline bowlers to Brisbane to adjust to the conditions for the first Test. James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann make up a settled attack, but Cooley is confident Australia's bowlers have the edge.

"I believe we have," Cooley said. "We have a pretty good attack, a couple of different options. It's good to see Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Bollinger all getting into good form. I think we're going pretty well.

"We've got a collection of bowlers that come together quite nicely. That's what you need here in this country, with the tracks being a little bit different from place to place. You grow up in those conditions, you learn to bowl in those conditions, and everywhere else you go in the world you've got to try and adjust. I think the home conditions will definitely suit us."

Cooley was renowned as the man who helped England's bowlers master reverse-swing during their 2005 Ashes triumph, and the Australians hoped that by poaching him he would have the same effect. Old-ball swing didn't play as huge a role in England last year - the more capable reverser, Doug Bollinger, was not yet part of the attack - and Cooley was still pleased with the efforts of Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Johnson, who topped the Ashes wicket tally.

"I think Dougie is a great exponent of that," he said of reverse swing. "Pete Siddle does reverse it pretty well when the opportunities arise. Mitchell Johnson, with his arm action, predominantly only goes one way, but when it's reversing he's as dangerous as anyone going around. They're learning all the time.

"That young attack we had over there had never bowled in England before. Even so, the top three of them still took more wickets [than the England bowlers] and their record was pretty good over there if you stack them up against anyone else. I think they did pretty well for an attack that hadn't been to England before."

It's a similar challenge faced by England; Anderson is the only man in their first-choice bowling unit who has played a Test in Australia. And the two pace attacks could be the difference between the teams when the first Test starts next Thursday at the Gabba, where there is expected to be plenty of assistance for the fast men.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steve on November 19, 2010, 16:38 GMT

    @popcorn - nooooo! Not Hauritz and his non-spinning off-breaks of doom! Not Johnson and his buffet bowling! Not Hilfenhaus and his 'unthreatening when the ball isn't swinging' medium-fast bowling! Not Bollinger and his constant half volleys and umpire glaring! Argh! How can you do this to us?! I guess we should not turn up at all in Brisbane!

  • Mashuq on November 19, 2010, 9:39 GMT

    Thanks, @ChrisJD. Anything, to keep bit of perspective. I've never seen a home series with the supporters so jittery - hence the bravado from some. But seriously, you've got to make changes at the right time, that's half the business. Pick guys when they're in form and know when to wield the axe. Don't play favourites (legends?) when they're past their sell-by date. I agree with you, @boris6491, oust Hilditch and put in a more permanent figure.

  • habeeb on November 19, 2010, 7:39 GMT

    yes Mitchell Johnson is back in form, Hussey has scored a hundred and Shane Watson almost won the game single handedly for NSW, he got 5 for. i can see there are some blokes getting back their form. i just cant wait for thursday for the first test to start. in my opinion Australia should bowl first even if they have won the toss and tear the england batting line up. if Aussies win the first ASHES test they will go on and win the series. yes Mitchell Johnson was will make a history this series wait and watch, see he will be lethal with the ball. he will prove everyone wrong. GO AUSSIES GO.

  • Rajaram on November 19, 2010, 5:17 GMT

    I endorse Troy Colley's opinion. Mitchell Johnson is in lethal form - both with ball and bat - a 5 frer and 121 not out! The Australian bowling lineup with two left arm quicks, Mitch and Dougie, will demolish England, with able support from the clever Hilfenhaus. Add the spinner, Nathan Hauritz, who fares excellently in Australia, - they will leave England in tatters! Go, Aussies,go!

  • Chris on November 19, 2010, 3:39 GMT

    After all the Johnson-bashing I thought I would check out how he rates against Brett Lee. Lee: 76 Tests, bowling ave 30.81, strike rate 53.3, 310 wickets, economy 3.46. Johnson: 38 tests, ave 29.06, strike rate 53.4, 166 wickets, economy 3.26.

    Johnson has played exactly half the tests of Lee, more than half as many wickets (though it's close), almost identical strike rate, slightly better economy, better average.

    Lee was a good bowler. A 'strike' bowler, like Johnson is described. I'm not saying stats prove a lot, but I don't think it's fair to say Johnson is terrible just because he is expected to fill McGrath's big shoes.

    There is a legitimate concern about form, but he just hit a hundred and got a 5 for, and for a confidence player I imagine that won't hurt his preparation.

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2010, 2:31 GMT

    How can Michael Hussey be out of form when he is ranked 3rd in the world in ODI cricket? It is just that, by pure luck or what, he is not producing in test matches. He is well and truly in form.

  • Brendan on November 19, 2010, 1:05 GMT

    What on earth is wrong with all you people??

    Mitch gets out there and gives it his best with the ball and with the bat and because of a few average performances you want to write him off as a cricketer!

    Lets see any of you big boys get padded up and face a couple of overs from him! Or even try and bowl to him!!

    I think the Australian side would do a whole lot better if they got some support from us Australians rather than trying to tear them down every chance we get.

  • R on November 19, 2010, 1:03 GMT

    Cooley was supposed to be 'behind' England's mastery of swing (all kinds) in 2005. Australia get him post that.Mitchell Johnson, was extremely promising when he came on the scene, and has steadily gone worse. It boggles my mind..a professional cricketer, paid in millions working with a professional expert coach( paid handsomely), cannot get the basics right..Forget swing, Johnson's seam is all over the place. Even with the seam in the right position, there is no guarantee it will swing, but is it too much to expect from world class bowlers (?). The other Mitchell (Starc) is the one that needs to be groomed. He has a beautiful seam position,a dn is sharp as well. For his own good MJ needs to be out

  • Dummy4 on November 18, 2010, 22:05 GMT

    The pitch or conditions don't matter squat when the guy sprays the ball all over the place, the only reason he gets any wickets is because the batsman never have a clue where he's going to bowl each delivery.

  • John on November 18, 2010, 21:47 GMT

    The problem with Meswaine's argument is that Johnson doesn't bowl enough balls that the batsmen need to worry about. His recent form is one good ball every ten overs or so, and in the meantime the batsmen fill their boots with runs from the bad balls. If they can survive the good ball, they've got another 60 or so bad balls to help themselves. He's also been down in pace recently, and an erratic bowler at 138kph is a lot less dangerous than one who bowls 148kph. He might come around and if he does, he's dangerous. If not- he's a match loser. Of course, given his performance compared to the guys who are supposed to get runs, maybe he should be playing as a specialist batsman!

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