Ashes Diary: Johnson pure box office for Boxing Day

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The Independent Online

Thank you, Mitchell Johnson. Not my words but those of Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide. Well, not his words, exactly, but that's undoubtedly what he's thinking after Johnson's brilliant spell in Perth rescued the MCG from the prospect of a moderate Boxing Day crowd. That looked very possible before Australia's win in the third Test, when one Melbourne newspaper ran an online poll asking respondents if they would bother going to the Test should England have wrapped up the Ashes by then. Most responded in the negative.

All that has changed. Indeed, a record crowd could be in the offing if Dodemaide is to be believed. "We knew that day one would be very strong, the ticket sales have indicated ... a plus-80,000 crowd," he said. "But we will now do all we can to ensure that all seats that are available are taken. I think the high eighties, perhaps even up to 90,000, will certainly be a chance. I expect now that in the next week the interest will rise even further and be at fever pitch by the time we bowl the first ball."

The record for a Test match at the cavernous MCG is the 90,800 that saw Australia take on West Indies in 1961. That could now be beaten. "Australia is now going in with momentum, I think it will create a lot of buzz," Dodemaide added.

Beer leaves Fawcett on tap

Four years after high-fiving Ricky Ponting in the wake of Australia's thumping win to retain the Ashes, young Western Australian Jake Fawcett went one better on the final day of the Perth Test. He was Ponting's replacement after the Tasmanian decided not to field, having injured a finger.

Fawcett, a 20-year-old all-rounder, was more than happy to carry the drinks once 12th man Michael Beer left to play for WA in Tasmania. "I was a bit nervous early on but as soon as I got my first touch and threw it into Haddin's gloves, the nerves dropped and I just enjoyed the experience," Fawcett said.

Hauritz hits form with a straight bat

England might expect to have the advantage at spin-friendly Sydney, which will host the fifth Test. But not so fast. Australia's one spinner of undoubted quality, Nathan Hauritz, may have been inexplicably overlooked thus far, but his form means he must come into contention for the last two matches. It's not his bowling that's attracting headlines, but his batting. He hit his second straight Sheffield Shield ton yesterday before picking up a wicket. Not that he expects to don the Baggy Green soon. "A Test recall is always in the back of your mind but I don't even see me being looked at," Hauritz said.

It's all or nothing in see-saw series

Yesterday's capitulation by England continued an interesting Ashes trend. The last two series have seen either thumping victories or draws, with Lord's in 2009 the closest non-draw (England won by 115 runs). The last time Australia gave England a thumping – Headingley 2009 – Andrew Strauss's men struck back immediately, winning by a lot at The Oval. The difference this time is that the Aussies are the home side and England cannot expect a pitch at the MCG entirely to their liking. Indeed, it looks like a bouncier, faster surface is being prepared than that on which England faced Victoria recently.