With a dramatically potent spell of fast swing bowling which had seemed a thing of his past, Mitchell Johnson dragged Australia back into the Third Test. His destruction of the England middle order in the first session of the second day might indeed have changed the course of the series and the destination of the Ashes.
On a day of heavy duty Test cricket in which the bouncer was seen in all its glory, Australia established a first innings lead of 81 which they stretched to an ominous 200 with seven second innings wickets in hand.
Johnson, dropped from the team, after an inept display in the First Test at Brisbane, was a player transformed. With breathtaking late inswing to the right handed batsmen – outswing to left handers - bowled at high velocity – he dismantled England’s top order and disdainfully swept away the tail. He finished with six for 38, which included a burst of for seven in 27 balls.
The switch in fortunes was remarkable. Things went swimmingly for England in the first hour of the morning as they tracked down Australia’s first innings total with some élan. Then Johnson joined the attack and it was immediately apparent that something different was afoot.
His first wicket was that of the England run machine, Alastair Cook, who drove a swinging ball off the outside of the bat to gully where Mike Hussey took a smart low catch. Johnson then had both Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen lbw within four balls. He softened up Trott with a vicious bouncer and then rammed a swinging fuller ball into his pads.
In Pietersen’s case he dispensed with the bouncer, merely pitching it up and piercing the batsman’s defences with his third ball. Pietersen’s request for a review must have been made in hope rather than expectation and duly failed. He had followed his career best 227 in Adelaide with a duck.
Paul Collingwood, out of sorts with the in this series, was ruffled up by a searing bouncer and almost immediately afterwards missed a swinging ball by a foot. Given not out, Australia referred the decision and Collingwood was swiftly on his way. Andrew Strauss, who made 52, was out to Ryan Harris, who should have had England’s captain 32 runs earlier when he snicked between wicketkeeper and first slip. At that point it seemed nothing would go right for the Aussies.
Only the sumptuous form of Ian Bell, in brief partnership with Matt Prior and Graeme Swann, took England to within 100 of Australia. But Bell, who made his third half century of the series, did not have to face much of Johnson.
England took early second innings wickets – again dismissing Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke cheaply - but Australia then rattled along at almost four runs an over and were 119 for three at the close.
England fall of wickets :1-78 (A.N. Cook, 32), 2-82 (I.J.L. Trott, 4), 3-82 (K.P. Pietersen, 0), 4-94 (A.J. Strauss, 52), 5-98 (P.D. Collingwood, 5), 6-145 (M.J. Prior, 12), 7-181 (G.P. Swann, 11), 8-186 (I.R. Bell, 53), 9-186 (C.T. Tremlett, 2), 10-187 (J.M. Anderson, 0).
Australia fall of wickets :1-31 (P.J. Hughes, 12), 2-34 (R.T. Ponting, 1), 3-64 (M.J. Clarke, 20).Reuse content