Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day December 17, 2010

Johnson's six gives Australia advantage


Australia 268 and 3 for 119 (Watson 61*, Hussey 24*) lead England 187 (Bell 53, Strauss 52, Johnson 6-38) by 200 runs

An enthralling day of action moved the third Test along in fast forward at the WACA with Mitchell Johnson reviving his career and Australia's Ashes fortunes with a brutal 6 for 38 to dismiss England for 187. However, the home side didn't extend the advantage without further top-order failures as Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett caused problems although by stumps Shane Watson was unbeaten on 61 and the lead was 200.

After eight days of England dominance this one went comprehensively to Australia and how desperately they needed it. If the visitors had batted throughout the day the Ashes would have been hard to save, but by the close Australia's belief was being restored after the efforts of their most mercurial cricketer. Johnson's morning burst of 4 for 7 knocked the stuffing out of England's previously prolific line up. The whole feeling of the series changed with each booming inswinger and all ten wickets fell for 109.

Conceding an advantage of 81 on a lively surface left England playing catch-up, but they aren't without hope if the bowlers can leave a target under 350. In 2008-09, South Africa chased down 414 on the way to topping Australia's home record - after Johnson took 8 for 61 in the first innings - although that was a flatter surface.

England's quicks did their best to even the ledger during the final session. Phillip Hughes was worked over for the second time in the match before edging to third slip off Finn, who went for 14 in his first over but continued the knack of picking up wickets. His next was Ricky Ponting as his poor form continued with a glove down the leg side which was ruled out on review.

Michael Clarke began by pulling his first ball for four and added three more boundaries as he tried to impose himself on the attack with the bowlers overdoing the short balls. Clarke, though, paid the price for his approach when he dragged Tremlett into his stumps to leave Australia 3 for 64 and England scenting further evening inroads. But Watson played positively, latching onto to the loose deliveries, to reach another half-century and the run machine of Mike Hussey was setting another platform in a stand of 55.

The 81-run advantage Australia earned during the first two sessions could become priceless. After a Test and a half of churning out runs by the bucket load, England's batting subsided after a promising opening stand of 78. Johnson's introduction changed the complexion as rediscovered the swing which makes him such a deadly prospect when he's on song.

His hours in the nets since being dropped have clearly worked and he also rode on the confidence of his batting effort to produce a wonderful spell of 9-3-20-4, which included a burst of three wickets in 12 balls to crash through England's previously formidable top order. The scalping of Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, and Paul Collingwood were classic left-armer to right-hander dismissals as the batsmen were beaten by sharp movement.

Cook looked set to continue his prolific series before driving at a full delivery which shaped away, giving Hussey a low catch in the gully. Trott only lasted eight balls when Johnson beat a flat-footed drive with one that swung back into the right hander and would have taken off stump.

Pietersen's stay was even briefer as Johnson followed two off-stump deliveries with another inducker which struck the batsman in front of middle and leg. His request for a review was a waste. Initially, Collingwood was given not out when he was beaten by pace and swing, but Johnson persuaded Ponting to use a review and it proved the right call. Johnson returned in the afternoon to take out the final two wickets, shattering Tremlett's stumps and winning his duel with Anderson, and appeared a cricketer reborn.

He was well supported by his fellow quicks. Ben Hilfenhaus, who hasn't taken a wicket since the third ball of the series, deserved something but instead it was Ryan Harris who took the spoils, ending attractive half-centuries from Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell. Strauss was offered a life on 16 when Watson and Brad Haddin both left it to the other to hold an edge, but after reaching a positive fifty edged a good ball that climbed off a length.

No one in the England team, though, is playing better than Bell. He launched his innings with a perfect straight drive and showed outstanding composure to weather the initial Johnson storm. His timing remained perfect whenever the bowlers strayed in a display that showed how much he has developed since four years ago in Australia.

At stages some of Australia's tactics were curious, especially when they persisted with the short ball but the plan did bring Matt Prior's wicket. The ball after being hit on the shoulder by Peter Siddle, a ball struck his body, bounced back onto the glove and down onto leg stump. It was Siddle's first wicket since the opening day in Brisbane when he took six.

Graeme Swann offered solid support to Bell in a useful stand of 36 and received plenty of short stuff which he handled reasonably well. However, Harris returned the attack, after treatment on a minor calf problem, to find the edge and Bell felt he had to attack when he edge a booming drive which was superbly held by Ponting at second slip. Bell's departure guaranteed Australia a sizeable advantage and suddenly the Ashes series was back in the balance.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2010, 16:08 GMT

    Great recovery by the Australian cricket team

  • Rohanj on December 18, 2010, 4:49 GMT

    Clowns!!! All of you! Erphan Ahmed, no idea. Stephen Kissoon, no idea! So THAT'S what Johnson CAN do England!! If only Ponting and Clarke would get a clue and a run! Maybe Erphan Ahmed and Stephen Kissoon can bat instead, they're obviously expert test cricketers!

  • imran on December 18, 2010, 2:58 GMT

    Minus any series in India and the recently concluded South Africa vs. Pakistan series in the UAE, this has been a great year for test matches. So many good matches, all around the world. It goes to show that if groundsmen prepare pitches that provide bowlers with a chance, good cricket will be the result. I am not a supporter of either Australia or England, but I'm completely hooked, because this is good cricket, at the highest level. And like it always does in professional sports, this game will be won by the team that is able to come through mentally...

  • Christopher on December 18, 2010, 0:44 GMT

    I suspect an imposter is playing for australia. He looks just like the superstar Phillip Hughes who, without any coaching, thrashed first class attacks mercilessly including the mighty Sth African and world number 1 bowler, Dale Steyn. He even opens the batting, where he earned justifiable comparisons with the amazing Virenda Sehwag. Where the indian coaching and selection staff embrace unorthodoxy, recognising that occasional failures will be inevitable, the australian coaching staff have utterly destroyed Hughes' style in the pursuit of the textbook. While they have succeeded in stopping him moving his back foot to leg as a first movement, they have also destroyed his offside game, that succeeded far more often than it failed. There can be little doubt that he has been the most exciting batting prospect of the last two years but his treatment defies belief. Watching him yesterday, one wonders where he is supposed to score his runs and if we have witnessed the ruin of great player.

  • Christopher on December 18, 2010, 0:11 GMT

    My god these players are fortunate that they didnt play during the amateur era. However did those players average 50 with the bat and 20s with the ball? They had no batting coaches, no bowling coaches, no fielding coaches, no helmets, no media support, no advertising committments and revenue, no wives and girlfriends on tour, no sports drink, no mobile communication, they played endless tour matches and they made no money. What they did have was character. They were picked on merit and fought to earn recognition. How often lately have players with very moderate first class records received undue attention, simply because of a few good matches. With very few exceptions, averages are a strong indicator of the long term ability of a player in all conditions to sustain excellence. A modest average is usually an indicator that there are weaknesses-of technique, of planning and execution, of mental toughness or of physical endurance. Select players with character on merit and we will prevail

  • Mark on December 17, 2010, 23:46 GMT

    @Erphan Ahmed That can only happen if Johnson starts his crazy bowling again.

  • Dummy4 on December 17, 2010, 23:39 GMT

    Great Test Match so far and a real huge thanks should go to the curator. The WACA is back! Its been a pleasure watching fast bowling on a quick pitch. Yet batsmen are still able to make a score if they really apply themselves and are selective in which balls they leave. 23 wickets in 2 days might be a little too much but i think some of the out of form aussie batsmen are to blame for that, not the pitch.

  • Peter on December 17, 2010, 23:21 GMT

    Yep, humble pie from me, too! Where's that 700-odd I thought Strauss would be declaring on tomorrow? No question - a superb piece of devastating fast swing bowling. And late swing - that's what was so damaging. This is the first time we Poms have really seen what the Aussies saw in him. With us, he has been no more than a figure of fun in 2009 and again in this series. Another burst in the 2nd innings? Not like that, I suspect. Perhaps never again. Australia now right back in the game, with their nose perhaps in front at the moment - but only just. This Test is now wide open but I'd still back England to win it, and see nothing yet to change my 3-0 prediction, which I was about to elevate to 4-0 before last night, but I may "hold" on that for a moment. Good to see Aus win a couple of sessions at last, as the series was becoming so one-sided & the Ashes can do without that. We were beginning to feel sorry for Aus over here, so now we can just revert to type!

  • David on December 17, 2010, 22:21 GMT

    Yeah - still a lot to happen in this test yet. Australia need to scrape together another 200+ and then bowl good lines and lengths, with venom, in the last inning. The pitch will be good for batting on the 4th and 5th days (if it goes to the 5th). Great bowling by Johnson, but you've got to wonder about his consistency. I'd like some real answers from the selectors and coaching staff about what they tried over the last 15 months that DIDN'T work, and what they did over the last 10 days that DID work. Perhaps it was Neilsen's brilliant idea of getting everyone to "jump around the bowling group"? If so, could we please have the technical details for that? No seriously, Mitch needs to keep this up now. We don't expect him to do what he did yesterday every time (although that would be good), but we don't expect the rubbish that he's delivered over the last 15 months either.

  • Adam on December 17, 2010, 21:58 GMT

    Watson for a hundred since he needs less than 50 today.

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