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