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December 7, 2013
Australia 9 for 570 dec and 3 for 132 (Warner 83*) lead England 172 (Bell 72*, Johnson 7-40) by 530 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Polite Enquiries: An asteroid named Mitchell Johnson
Mitchell Johnson produced a blood-curdling display of world-class fast bowling to destroy England in the second Test in Adelaide. Johnson's sustained menace bore comparison with the great fast-bowling spells of the modern age as he took 5 for 16 in five overs immediately after lunch to leave England in a state of bewilderment.
England lost their last seven wickets for 61 runs in a wholesale collapse as bad as any they suffered during the days when they arrived in Australia as lambs to the slaughter. They will fear that lamb is back on the menu. They conceded a first-innings lead of 398 and with the match barely past its mid-point now face the ever-growing likelihood of going 2-0 down in the five-Test series. And Perth, Johnson's adopted home ground, the fastest, bounciest track in Australia, is up next.
With two days remaining, Australia's lead is already 530 runs: more than England have managed in three innings combined in this Ashes series. David Warner's easeful 83 not out dominated a low-key final session after three of Australia's batsmen fell carelessly to James Anderson and Monty Panesar, who turned one to bowl Michael Clarke, but the talk rarely strayed from Johnson.
England were already in disarray at lunch at 4 for 117, which eased Johnson's path. His ever-lengthening moustache, which he grew for prostate cancer awareness and which he has now kept as a good luck charm, gave the impression that he was a wild fast bowler transported from another age. England will have to hope it eventually grows so long it trips him up.
He finished with 7 for 40, twice on a hat-trick, with England's lower order entirely unable to cope with a perpetual assault above 90mph; potent slingers from a heavily muscled, koi-fish tattooed left arm. Only Ian Bell's unbeaten 72 restored a sense of normality, playing Johnson with aplomb whenever he was on strike and watching with growing desperation whenever he was not. In three innings, Johnson now has 16 wickets at less than nine runs each.
Johnson's trail of destruction: six wickets for 16 runs in 26 balls
This is essentially a flat pitch, one upon which Australia declared at 9 for 570 and one on which England must surely have imagined they could tame Johnson and get a foothold in the Ashes series. But if you can make a pitch flat, you cannot make the air slow. England have yet to make 200 in three attempts. Their insistence that they have no inherent weakness against fast bowling is not entirely hollow because most of the top order have played Johnson well at some stage, but Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, labelled it as one of England's worst batting performances for years.
Johnson's second over after lunch did the most damage, Ben Stokes, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad falling in the space of five balls. Stokes at least managed to steal his first Test run - a firm push which might conceivably have resulted in a run-out had not Ryan Harris fumbled at mid-off. But Stokes fell to the first ball of Johnson's next over as the ball crashed into a hopeful front pad. Umpire Marais Erasmus refused the appeal, presumably imagining that Stokes had got an inside edge, but Australia overturned the decision on review.
There was no end to Prior's poor form, not with Johnson in this frame of mind. He lasted four balls, rapped on the chest with the second and ducking for self-preservation against the third. After the roughing up came a fuller delivery which Prior edged to the keeper.
Broad lasted five minutes, but that was largely because he spent all but five seconds of them fussing about the sun glinting from some bolts on the sightscreen. England's Ashes villain was roundly booed as the delay became prolonged. Johnson's animalistic fast bowling had even awoken Adelaide's normally dainty crowd.
With the white tarpaulin sheets also lit up by the sun, Johnson seemed to be rushing in from some sort of Australian cricketing heaven, the wispy clouds above the cathedral suddenly appearing more celestial.
If Broad had hoped Johnson's adrenalin rush would subside during the delay, he was to be disappointed. A member of the groundstaff descended from his ladder and play resumed. Broad sought to move back and across, and his exposed leg stump was uprooted. This time the boos were more triumphant.
Johnson missed the hat-trick when Graeme Swann chipped the first ball of his next over none too convincingly through midwicket, but Swann is not equipped for a task like this. He fended off a nasty bouncer in Johnson's next over before driving desperately and falling to a fast catch at first slip by Clarke.
The finest piece of theatre was reserved for Anderson, whose middle stump was removed first ball. Johnson scowled into Anderson's face as he ran the length of the pitch; Anderson determinedly did not make eye contact and stared blankly at the pavilion to where he was about to return.
Johnson did not quite finish off the job. Normality descended upon the Adelaide Oval. Bell advanced his score into the 70s, his only concern when he survived a review for lbw. Johnson returned again. Two balls, and an inside edge onto pad and stumps from Panesar, was all it took.
England surrendered three wickets in the morning session, their only source of comfort being Michael Carberry's first Test half-century. Joe Root would not be proud of his attempt to slog-sweep Nathan Lyon. He was overstretched as he took the ball from just outside off stump and misjudged the bounce. Even though the boundary in front of the unfinished stand is a mere 53 metres, he fell comfortably short, surrendering his wicket to a catch by Chris Rogers. Root had laboured for 80 balls for 15 and his efforts were wasted.
If Root's departure was bad enough for England, Kevin Pietersen's dismissal must have left them screeching with frustration. Australia set two short midwickets when Peter Siddle bowled to Pietersen and he could not resist the challenge. He did not just play the shot, he manufactured it, moving across his stumps to a length ball and whipping it to the squarer of the two fielders, George Bailey juggled with it four times, without ever looking out of control, before the ball finally rested in his hands.
It is a shot Pietersen feasts upon, and such is his determination to keep playing it that even if Australia stationed four short midwickets it would probably not quell his desire. Siddle, too, has repeatedly unsettled him around off stump and that has increased his desire to find a get-out shot. But he has fallen in this manner twice in the series and Australia can celebrate a tactical victory. He also had a scare in Siddle's previous over, before he had scored, when Australia unsuccessfully reviewed for a catch at the wicket.
Bell was bent upon playing with natural freedom. He lofted his seventh ball, from Lyon, over long-off for six and, in Lyon's next over, cleared the rope at long-on. It had taken England 35 overs to get their scoring rate above two an over.
But Australia checked them again when Harris and Shane Watson produced five successive maidens - the last ball of the fifth of them resulting in the dismissal of Carberry who pulled Watson forcefully and down, only for Warner to pull off an excellent left-handed catch in front of square.
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