Ashes 2013-14: Mitchell Johnson is proving England are spent force

Another spineless batting collapse and the prospect of more pain at Perth means the Ashes have almost slipped from Cook's grasp already, writes Stephen Brenkley in Adelaide

Adelaide Oval

Only once in the history of the Ashes have a team come from two Tests behind to win the series. It is not about to happen again. England will pitch up in Perth for the Third Test later this week clinging on to hope and that solitary precedent, but otherwise bereft.

They do not have Don Bradman in their ranks, the greatest player of all, who turned round the contest in 1936-37. In two weeks, they have been outplayed and outclassed.

The 3-0 series win that England engineered in the summer to secure the Ashes for the third time in succession is a fond, bitter memory. It has failed to sustain them here, and those who thought they still had enough fuel in the tank have been proved hopelessly optimistic. England are running on empty.

 

AUDIO: Stephen Brenkley and Tom Collomosse discuss the days play. Listen below…

They have looked like a team who, frankly, are finished as a force. They will say they won in India last winter and beat Australia in the summer; doubtless they will keep saying it. But they appear to have forgotten how to assemble a proper Test innings. They have passed 400 only once in the past 13 attempts; on a perfect batting strip here they were swept aside for 172.

There are few able replacements, none proven and, bizarrely, most of the batsmen may have to survive. Matt Prior and Graeme Swann may fear the knock on the door from the selector, but dropping them would be no kind of answer. Doing nothing, however, in the wake of what is likely to be two heavy defeats is not an option in big-time cricket if credibility is to be preserved.

The main but not only difference between summer and winter is Mitchell Johnson, who was not selected for the tour to England. His career might have been finished. The selectors seemed to have tired of his mercurial displays.

His one-day form in England and then in India persuaded them that his time should come again. How right they were. Almost from the start in Brisbane he has been rapid, hostile and unerring. Used in short bursts he has terrified England.

England’s first innings was already in a shambolic state when Johnson re-entered the arena after lunch on the third day. This was largely of the tourists’ own making.

Two unimaginably crass strokes, played by Joe Root and Kevin Pieter-sen, were evidence of how being under the pump in top-level anything can addle the brain. At 111 for 4, when Michael Carberry’s solid innings was ended by a superb catch, England were going nowhere. Soon enough they were going nowhere fast.

Johnson took 5 for 12 in 18 balls. In his first over after lunch he had the debutant Ben Stokes lbw, pinned to the crease with a ball that seared back. It needed a review to confirm the decision. Perhaps the umpire did not pick it up either, for it was a ball that was going in only one direction. It was the first Stokes had received from Johnson; he will now be waiting anxiously for the second.

Four balls later, Prior, having evaded a couple of bouncers, flirted triflingly at a ball of fuller length outside off and was caught behind. The trudge off, to which Prior is becoming accustomed, was embarrassingly curtailed while it was checked if Johnson had bowled a no-ball.

There was a long wait for the next ball while Stuart Broad had the sightscreen amended. Whatever had been done was not an outrageous success from Broad’s point of view. He moved across his crease and had his leg stump removed by a humdinger.

Eight runs came from Johnson’s next 10 balls, including a deliberate uppercut by Ian Bell, who batted resplendently – a rose among thorns. Then Mitchell had Swann caught at slip, driving hard, and bowled Jimmy Anderson middle stump.

Resistance, brave resistance, followed from Monty Panesar of all people. Johnson went out to the long grass. Bell played a few more rasping strokes. He had dealt wonderfully with Johnson, twice uppercutting him, never looking ruffled.

After a few overs of this effrontery, Michael Clarke, Australia’s captain, summoned his destroyer-in-chief again. It took him two balls to knock down Panesar’s castle. Australia batted again and lost two quick wickets, but it mattered not.

There have been spectacular exhibitions from Johnson in the past but he has tended to blow hot and cold. Against the Poms he has blown mostly cold, unhinged by their vocal support, except on one famous occasion in Perth three years ago.

With a rapid pitch, with which he is extremely familiar, to come in Perth next week, England must be quaking in their boots.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones