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Nielsen backs struggling Johnson

It was another torrid day for Mitchell Johnson Getty Images

Australia's coach, Tim Nielsen, has said that the team will do everything in its power to boost the morale of their misfiring strike bowler, Mitchell Johnson, whose place in the starting XI for Friday's second Test at Adelaide is in jeopardy following a barren performance at the Gabba.

The Brisbane Test will forever be remembered for England's massive second-innings scoreline of 517 for 1, but Johnson is the man who is taking the blame for the toothlessness of Australia's attack. He returned match figures of 0 for 170, the worst of his 39-Test career, and his fragile confidence was further undermined by a crucial dropped catch off England's captain, Andrew Strauss, as well as a 19-ball duck.

The Australian media was merciless in its assessment of Johnson's performance, with the former Australian captain, Ian Chappell, telling ESPNcricinfo that there was no choice but to drop him for Adelaide. The call-ups of Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris mean that five fast bowlers are now vying for three spots alongside the spinner Xavier Doherty, but while Nielsen accepted that Australia's attack had been off the boil at the Gabba, he was keen to defend his highest-profile bowler, pointing out that Johnson wasn't the only man who struggled for penetration.

"He didn't have his best game, but 11 wickets in the Test match for both groups says it's hard work to me," Nielsen said, shortly after the team's arrival in Adelaide. "He didn't bowl as well as he would have liked, and that's our job over the next couple of days to make sure we get him back up and going. At different times there have been a lot of players who haven't performed in one Test match and then have come out and upped the ante. That's the challenge of a five-day Test.

"We all identify that he didn't have the best game. But there were times when we let it get away - not as an individual but as a bowling group - and when that happens, one guy usually gets exposed, and Mitch is the one we're talking about. Throughout his career, he's had his ups and downs but there's not an international who hasn't gone the long-term without ups and downs. Mitch is no different. But we need to address that tomorrow morning, and find way a way to attack the English team and take 20 wickets."

According to Chappell, England's tactic of playing inside the line has denied Johnson his usual rewards outside off stump, especially now that his inswinger appears to have deserted him. But of particular concern for Australia will be the speed with which Johnson's confidence evaporated, despite him entering the game on a high following a five-wicket haul and a century in Western Australia's Sheffield Shield fixture against Victoria at Melbourne last week.

"That exposes the difference between international and domestic cricket and it's something we have to deal with these players every day of the week," said Nielsen. "We've got to make sure Mitch is relaxed and thinking clearly about what works for him. We know he prepared well but that doesn't guarantee anything. There's a couple of little things we can work on, we can make sure we jump around the bowling group and each other, and make sure he's in as good a place as he can be. He's taken 160 Test wickets so he's good at this game."

Despite the concerns raised by Australia's struggles with the ball, both Nielsen and his England counterpart, Andy Flower, were keenly aware that the series remains all-square, and so - despite the symbolic value of England's 517 for 1 scoreline - neither side was seeking to overplay the psychological aspect of the match. "I look up on the scoreboard and see a draw," said Nielsen. "They played well, but in the end nobody won. It's 0-0 and we turn up on Friday and start again."

Flower did believe that, for the second Ashes running, England were able to look back on a drawn opening match with a greater degree of satisfaction than their opponents, following their great escape at Cardiff in 2009. But with the second Test following so quickly on from the first, the challenge was to ensure that the high standards that England met in the latter part of the game, are carried over to Friday morning. In that respect, England - by finishing the stronger of the two teams - have the chance to carry forward the momentum.

"I think in reality this is a two-act play," said Flower. "Ideally you want to move on as quickly as possible whether you've done well or poorly in the last match, but obviously there is fatigue for some of the bowlers after long spells; confidence or lack thereof is passed from one match to the next. There is definitely a connection there."

"Certainly after such a big deficit to come through as well as we did, there are similarities [to Cardiff]," he said. "But the bottom line is the score is 0-0. I think our batsmen showed they can handle the attack, but that is only one Test we've just played, and the real test is over the long term. I expect them to fight hard and I expect our team to fight hard."