Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day

Australian mayhem orchestrated backstage

Their bowling display has been a feather in the cap for the hard work of coaches Craig McDermott and John Davison

Daniel Brettig in Brisbane

November 22, 2013

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Nathan Lyon took two wickets in two balls, Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day, November 22, 2013
Nathan Lyon's success was reward for spin coach John Davison's cajoling © Getty Images
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As Australia's bowlers gorged themselves on England, the stands encircling the Gabba were in tumult. Each wicket drew a bloodcurdling roar, every near miss an equally visceral "ooooh". In a session that accounted for six England batsmen, such sounds were legion.

Whether it was Australians whooping in delight or Englishmen chilled to their bones, not a soul could be unmoved by this episode, the kind of Test match passage so exhilarating for the fact a five-day contest's course was being decided in a matter of minutes.

At the instant of this thrilling, runaway momentum taking hold of the Test, the pace bowling coach Craig McDermott and the spin coach John Davison sat side by side in the Australian team viewing area, an island of calm in a perfect storm.

Smiles grew on their faces as each Englishman trudged back to the players' area below them. They expanded into beaming grins when the bowlers returned to the dressing rooms at tea, a match and perhaps a series now tilted towards the hosts. Neither man has been around the national team much in recent times, but their presence in Brisbane was a significant factor in orchestrating the mayhem of the second afternoon.

McDermott's return to the national team after an 18-month absence had been engineered only weeks before the series began. His 291 Test wickets, empathy for the struggles of fast bowlers, and preference for simple tactical and technical advice had been highly influential during an earlier stint in 2011-12, most pointedly in encouraging Australia's pacemen to pursue a fuller length and bring their slips cordon into play. He established strong relationships with many of Australia's bowlers, and remained in touch with them during his time away.

Davison, meanwhile, has worked quietly with Australian spin bowlers in his role at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. His playing days are best known for a star batting turn for Canada at the 2003 World Cup, but he also experienced the difficult life of slow bowling down under, battling the defensive tactical whims of captains and coaches as much as the more obvious opposition provided by aggressive batsmen and unresponsive pitches. That grounding has helped build a strong alliance with Nathan Lyon, who pushed successfully to have Davison work with the team more closely this summer.

At Allan Border Field, McDermott and Davison had worked assiduously with their pupils well in advance of the full team's arrival in Brisbane on Sunday. Their work centred on honing the plans concocted for each England batsman, either tightening what had been attempted in England or tweaking it slightly to accommodate the greater bounce on offer in Australia. Both men were impressed by what they had seen: Mitchell Johnson was fast, Ryan Harris precise, Peter Siddle persistent, and Lyon gaining notable loop and spin.

But when Australia's innings concluded at 295, a total delivered by Brad Haddin's combination of elegant technique and gritty countenance, McDermott and Davison had to let their bowlers go. Initially the signs were not overly encouraging. Harris was a little too short and straight, Johnson was completely unpredictable, and Siddle flat. Alastair Cook's outside edge was a reward for Harris' self-improvement across the morning, while Jonathan Trott's leg glance after a panicky stay conveyed the jumpiness that exists in England's batting when confronted by high pace.

Promising as a lunchtime score of 2 for 55 appeared, the lunch break afforded the opportunity for further counselling. As Haddin attested, McDermott's message to the pacemen was typically blunt, decrying the amount of short stuff directed at the hips of the touring batsmen; "pitch it up" was his directive. He has used these words countless times before, as have many bowling coaches, but like David Saker with England, McDermott's gift appears to be the fact that the bowlers under his direction believe and follow his instructions.

 
 
John Davison has worked tirelessly to build Lyon's confidence, eschewing the instructions he could recall from his earlier years with Victoria.
 

Elsewhere Davison sat with Lyon and reinforced the positive messages that all spinners need to hear at times. Dropped twice this year despite not really doing anything to deserve such a fate, Lyon was the last man picked for this match, New South Wales being informed he would not be available for Sheffield Shield duty less than two hours before the first ball of the Test. Nonetheless his enthusiasm for the team is unmatched, and Davison has worked tirelessly to build his confidence, eschewing the "don't do this, don't do that" instructions Lyon could recall from his earlier years with Victoria. A moment would arrive for Lyon, and he was good enough to seize it.

What followed was a bowling attack working in near perfect harmony, each man contributing to the destruction in a way that vindicated much of McDermott and Davison's work. Befitting his standing, it was Harris who started the roll for the hosts, capitalising on a tight bowling partnership with Siddle by tempting Kevin Pietersen to flick a catch to short midwicket. The previous over, Lyon had joined the attack, and immediately created doubt by spinning his offbreaks past the otherwise sturdy Michael Carberry. Johnson was brought back to replace Harris, and from around the wicket widened the breach by finding Carberry's edge.

At times Lyon has been questioned about his ability to make a decisive difference to a match - it is the source of recurring doubt for the selectors that he is yet to bowl a team out on the final day of a Test. This time his spinning fingers would twirl a decisive brace. Bowling around the wicket, Lyon extracted turn but importantly bounce, of the kind Shane Warne so loved in Brisbane. It was this that did for Ian Bell, the man of the series in England. A gentle attempt to flick to leg brought a deflection and a catch to short leg, the nimble Steve Smith. Next ball, Matt Prior did more or less the same thing, Smith diving headlong to take the catch, then convincing Clarke of the need to refer Aleem Dar's unfavourable verdict.

Though a hat-trick was averted, England were now tender prey, and Johnson turned the Gabba into a cricket Colosseum by hunting down Joe Root and Graeme Swann. Root fell to a ball pitched up and angled across him, while Swann squeezed a lifter to short leg in an act of self-preservation. Six wickets had fallen for nine runs.

It was in these moments that Johnson stole the headlines for tomorrow, gaining recompense for previous indignities suffered at English hands. But Australia's domination had been achieved through forces combined and sights recalibrated, plans executed and persevered with. All the bowlers deserved credit for a triumphant scoreboard. Nudging each other happily in the team viewing area, McDermott and Davison knew that more than anyone.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (November 27, 2013, 2:32 GMT)

Funny stuff Wefinishthis! It's precisely because Johnson doesn't put the ball in exactly the same spot twice that the Pommy bats are at risk. At his pace they are premeditating and it shows they don't have the aptitude to cope. If you go to the player stats pages on this site, you'll notice something very interesting. Mitchell Johnson - 214 Test wkts @ 30.11 Econony rate 3.34 StrikeRate - 54 James Anderson - 331 Test wkts @30.35 Economy rate 3.09 StrikeRate - 58.8

Will Johnson go for plenty later in the series? Who knows, but there is more chance of him getting wickets conducive to his pace, than Anderson getting conditions to hoop it around. Either way with a strikerate at nearly an over better, he can give away the extra point three of a run and still contribute greatly to a 380 run win. By the way, that's not even taking into account the runs he makes.

Funny thing perception, isn't it? If he was terrible and took 9fa, your boys are in for a long tour when he isn't terrible.

Posted by ScottStevo on (November 24, 2013, 1:49 GMT)

@WeFinishThis, Clearly, my friend, you watch matches rather differently to most of us. Your team selections are generally rubbish and ill considered, and now you've stooped to mocking the bowler who just ripped the opposition apart. I'm not really certain why it is you think we care if MJ goes for 6 an over. If Harris is so great, and Siddle and Lyon also economical, then MJ taking big wickets can go for 20 an over and he'd still be useful. So much more so than someone like Faulkner who would be bowling 80mph on a deck like this and would be as threatening as a marshmallow.

Posted by hhillbumper on (November 23, 2013, 21:46 GMT)

The English batting has not been that good since India last year.it is strange that every time England make a break through they then seem to atrophy. England need to find some form

Posted by andrew-schulz on (November 23, 2013, 10:52 GMT)

A lot of us actually watched the match, we finish this, and you appear to be the only one who thinks Johnson was terrible. You are just wrong. A well-executed plan to get rid of Trott, brilliant sustained hostility which no one else in the game is capable of to dispose of Carberry, and all over Root and Swann. He is first pick at the moment, and it's got to be a lack f knowledge of fast bowling that brings forth your tirade.

Posted by DickCam on (November 23, 2013, 8:54 GMT)

Absolutely spot on Jason Bray.

Posted by   on (November 22, 2013, 22:38 GMT)

Steve gregory I'm with you..much as I was elated that aust won the battle of first innings there is a long way to go ! Let's stop celebrating and get our heads down! the problem is how many are enough runs when we are only going into the third day..we have seen Eng stay in for long periods and be very tough to get out they will be hoping for a declaration if aust don't get bowled out and clarke is always up to the challenge(which I like) but weather is fickle and rain is not always predictable. I would hate to see the poms have two days to accumulate runs !! good luck boys!!

Posted by Wefinishthis on (November 22, 2013, 21:55 GMT)

If you actually saw the match, Mitchell Johnson was terrible, especially at the start. He couldn't bowl two deliveries in the same spot and every second delivery went down leg side in his first two spells, gifting fours everywhere. His wickets came from mindless batting in unfamiliar conditions. Ryan Harris is up there with Dale Steyn and Philander as the best 3 bowlers in the world, but even he started off poorly, bowling everything down leg side too. I don't know if the English purposely played badly to Johnson to ensure that the selectors keep persisting with him yet again, but it doesn't bode well for Australia that Johnson is now getting more chances as he'll go for plenty of runs later on in the series, especially Adelaide but except perhaps Perth. Siddle was economical, but not threatening. I'll agree with the article on Lyon though - some of his best ever bowling in that he strangled the flow of runs from one end with 3 maidens on an unhelpful pitch and threatened as well.

Posted by The_other_side on (November 22, 2013, 19:29 GMT)

Sir, this article should be ideally written if things are going Aussies way at the end of fourth test... At present it may be too much to soon! It may also indicate Australian desperation for heroes. Good article but may be too much too soon.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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