Mitchell John­son exclusive

Eng­land need to worry as we have not been at our best yet

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - MITCHELL JOHN­SON

Is it go­ing to be 5-0? I want it to be 5-0 be­cause there is that ri­valry still in me, and I am start­ing to think that things are head­ing that way. There will be all the more pres­sure on Joe Root af­ter choos­ing to bowl first at Ade­laide. When you put pres­sure on a cap­tain – and he is 2-0 down and has scored only a cou­ple of fifties – it can be a bad place. Root is right in say­ing that Eng­land have fought but have been in­con­sis­tent – that they have won some mo­ments but not the big ones, like that part­ner­ship be­tween Steve Smith and Pat Cum­mins in Bris­bane. But my point is that Aus­tralia have not been at their best yet.

Be­fore this se­ries, I read a cou­ple of ar­ti­cles about the 2013-14 se­ries and how the Eng­land guys were not honest with each other about their prob­lems against the short ball. But if they are honest with each other, they still have a chance of avoid­ing 5-0 this time.

I won­der if Root is us­ing Alas­tair Cook enough as a se­nior player. He has been there, done that. I am sure Cook will have plenty to say in team meet­ings but he looks a bit dis­con­nected from the group on the field. I do not know if he wants to be in­volved, but he could be very help­ful.

In­stead, al­though I do not know how much we can read into it, Root is go­ing to his other se­nior play­ers, such as James An­der­son and Jonny Bairstow.

We were all think­ing that Ade­laide would be Eng­land’s best chance with a brand-new pink ball. Aus­tralia would have been wor­ried. And Eng­land were on such a high af­ter bowl­ing out Aus­tralia in their sec­ond in­nings for 138, and ev­ery Australian would have been twitch­ing when they got to 160 for three. So, Eng­land are go­ing to be de­flated af­ter the re­sult.

I did not mind Smith’s de­ci­sion to bat a sec­ond time, by the way, in­stead of en­forc­ing the fol­low-on. David Warner and Us­man Khawaja al­most got through that pe­riod when the ball was do­ing too much.

It has been re­ally good weather in Perth lately. The Waca looks good to bat on. In a re­cent Sh­effield Shield game there, Cameron Ban­croft got a dou­ble­hun­dred. Matthew Hay­den said it was a great place to bat – and he got the world-record in­nings of 380 there against Zim­babwe be­fore Brian Lara over­took it – be­cause if the bowler goes wide, you can cut or pull. But if you bowl a good line and length, and that means about a me­tre fuller than any other ground in Aus­tralia, you are al­ways in the game.

In Bris­bane and Ade­laide, the pitches quick­ened up dur­ing the game, and then the short ball def­i­nitely made an im­pact on Eng­land. Speak­ing to the grounds­man re­cently, he said he wants the Waca to crack up on day four and five – that means there will be real pace and bounce be­fore then so the ball flies through.

The Australian bats­men are prob­a­bly go­ing to en­joy the Waca sur­face, where leav­ing on length – when the ball is not go­ing to hit the stumps – is cru­cial. I can see Khawaja mak­ing runs in his laid-back style with his cut­ting and pulling. Warner, too – he bats like Hay­den, wait­ing for the ball un­til it is un­der his nose and then giv­ing it a crack, and some of the edges go for six be­cause the straight bound­aries are short.

Mitchell Marsh has been picked as a bat­ting all-rounder in the squad, prob­a­bly in place of Peter Hand­scomb, who does not look as good as in the past. Maybe it is the pres­sure of play­ing at the top level and in an Ashes se­ries, but he seems to be try­ing to change his tech­nique in mid-se­ries.

Aus­tralia’s se­lec­tors have done a great job so far but, per­son­ally, I would have liked to see Mar­cus Stoi­nis in the squad. Den­nis Lillee has been work­ing with him on his run-up, he is a real ath­lete and you want 12-15 overs a day from your all-rounder. I think Marsh started bowl­ing in his last-but-one Shield game with­out per­mis­sion from the med­i­cal staff. He just felt like a bowl. But look at Shane Wat­son, as in the 2013-14 se­ries, he was ready to bowl any time.

One prob­lem that both cap­tains are hav­ing is with the De­ci­sion Re­view Sys­tem. I think a bet­ter op­tion is to take it out of the cap­tains’ hands and let the um­pires work out how to use it. So, if the on-field um­pire has some doubt – say, for caught be­hind or lbw – he just goes up­stairs to check. You see it in other sports like rugby or bas­ket­ball. The um­pires make all the de­ci­sions.

I won­der if Root is us­ing Cook enough for ad­vice. He looks a bit dis­con­nected

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