'As a batting line-up we will be disappointed with our performances'
Strauss admits tourists paid price for failure to deal with devastating spell by Aussie paceman
Monday 20 December 2010
At least Andrew Strauss made no excuses. There was one, of course, considerable in any context. They probably do not come bigger. But if the England captain made too much of it then the effect on his men might be cataclysmic. So better not to dwell on Mitchell Johnson's 6 for 34, which changed the course of the Third Test and transformed the series.
"It was very disappointing, especially after being 80-odd for nought in our first innings, chasing 260," he said yesterday. "We were in a very good position to take control of the game but we weren't able to do that and you have got to give Australia a lot of credit for the way they bowled.
"Mitchell Johnson bowled a very incisive spell and once they got in front they didn't let us back into it. As a batting line-up we will be very disappointed with our two performances. We've got to take it on the chin, learn the lessons and move on."
What England do about Johnson is suddenly the key to the Ashes. He came into this match as a lame-duck bowler with his best days, which England had never seen, behind him. That is the case no more.
Strauss added: "As a batsman, you have to react to what is coming down at you and we didn't do that well enough. It was a good spell and all credit to him for coming back the way he did. But he's always been a dangerous customer, he has the ability to bowl good balls and we must be better at keeping those good balls out and scoring off the bad ones." He could have said that again and again.
What England must avoid doing now at all costs is panic but the way they went about their second innings, at the start of which some good judges presumed 391 to win not be unfeasible, embodied panic. Panic and Johnson might just go together from now on.
It is 1-1 in the series but matters have swung Australia's way in a fashion that could not have been imagined after the tourists' great deeds in Adelaide. All they cling to are the twists and turns of the 2009 series, when first one side and then other burst to the front after seemingly being tailed off.
"In 2009 it was a see-sawing series and there's no reason to expect this one not to be," said Strauss. "But up until this game our cricket has been very consistent. We dropped off this game, there's no doubt about it, but if we can regain those levels of consistency then we've got a fair chance of going on and winning the series."
But England have urgent matters to address and if they might not care to address their response as panic they may have to be ruthlessly pragmatic.
"I certainly wouldn't rule anything out at this stage but now is not the time to panic particularly," said Strauss, sticking to his guns. "There are definitely lessons to be learnt from this game, it would be wrong for us to wash our hands of it completely. But it's all about bouncing back now. We've done it well in the past and we're going to have to do it in Melbourne."
If the vicious late swing of Johnson was the key element in Australia's victory, the pace and carry of the pitch were also clearly not England's liking. Against fast, well-directed bouncers they were found short of the right stuff. It evoked horrible memories of what happened to them at the Wanderers in Johannesburg almost a year ago, when Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel dismantled their techniques. After Johnson got to work, he had the full support of Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, who were prepared to do some considerable roughing up.
"I don't buy into that theory that it's just because of bounce we got bowled out," said Strauss. "I just think we didn't react well to a couple of good spells of bowling. Mitchell Johnson started swinging it and before we knew it we had lost three batsmen to lbw. The issue to address is if you lose one or two wickets you make sure you don't lose three, four, five in a row. I don't think there were any glaring deficiencies in technique but some poor shots were played both here and at the Wanderers."
The temptation after such a heavy defeat was to look for all manner of explanations. Strauss, inevitably, was asked whether the arrival of wives and children had had an effect. It was laughable. He was asked about Australia's clear decision to sledge more overtly. "What you say never wins you a Test match, it's what you do," he said. The arrival of Johnson and England's inability to resist was all that really counted.
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