SUDDENLY this series has been blown wide open again and it’s largely down to the performance of one man: Mitchell Johnson. The Australian was dropped and derided after the first Test but, having been given a reprieve, has gone from zero to hero in the space of 10 days, thanks to some exceptional bowling that wrecked England’s first innings in Perth.
Everybody said the tourists would struggle against the bouncing ball at the WACA, but Johnson’s three LBWs in that first innings couldn’t be put down to bounce; they were well pitched up and he got some swing.
There’s a saying in cricket: You never lose ability, it just hides in funny places sometimes. Well Johnson clearly used his absence from the team to work with bowling coach Troy Cooley on rediscovering his and it’s made a world of difference to him and his team.
Without doubt the momentum of this series has changed dramatically. The result in the third Test was one thing, but the manner was something else, and that’s what will disturb England. Andrew Strauss and his team were outplayed in every single department – by some way.
Australia’s confidence will have been hugely boosted. We repeatedly talked about how weak their attack is but the fact is they now have three bowlers – Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Johnson – who have taken six wickets in one innings of this series.
They will come hard at England in the fourth Test, which now promises to be a must-watch. With the Ashes back in the balance there should be 90,000 at Melbourne and an incredible atmosphere at the MCG. The bottom line is the Aussies do not have a spinner, and I feel that may still be the decisive factor in England’s favour.
TWICE THE PLAYER
England will surely be thinking about changes in the batting order for the fourth Test. For two of the three matches Ian Bell has run out of proper partners and must be moved up the order.
The question is whether to demote Paul Collingwood a place to No6 or leave him out altogether. I’m a huge fan of Eoin Morgan but I think it’s far more likely Bell will be switched with Colly.
It would be out of character for the England management to make wholesale changes after one defeat. Strauss and Andy Flower are two very sound thinkers and they’ll dissect the possibilities carefully, but something ought to be done because Bell looks twice the player Colly does right now.