The man with the best view in the ground insists everything is hunky-dory with Mitchell Johnson's bowling, despite figures to the contrary. Brad Haddin, the Australian wicketkeeper, has been throwing himself left and right as the pace bowler has struggled for accuracy during the first two Ashes Tests yet apparently sees the same left-armer that ripped through the South Africans in series either side of Christmas.
"Obviously he's had a very successful time with the Australian team, his bowling was outstanding in South Africa," Haddin said yesterday. "He's still taking wickets for us and in his game he still feels pretty comfortable. I don't see that much of a difference, obviously there were different conditions in South Africa that allowed the ball to swing a little bit more. And we're using different balls here that are probably starting to swing a little bit later. From where I'm standing his pace is still up and it's all pretty good.
"As much as has been written about him not performing, he's still taking a lot of wickets. And he bowled great in the tour game. I don't think it's too much of a concern."
Johnson is indeed picking up wickets – he has eight in the Ashes, second only to Nathan Hauritz and Ben Hilfenhaus – but it was his lack of control that allowed both England's innings to gain such early momentum at Lord's. In South Africa, in three matches, he took 16 wickets at 25 runs each but in the Ashes his victims have come at a cost of 41 apiece. Against Northamptonshire figures of 1 for 107 would suggest Haddin, who sat out the match, had his head in a book rather than watching from the balcony.
Asked whether Haddin and the rest of his team-mates were giving Johnson extra support and trying to help him out, Haddin added: "We're not trying to help him out of anything, his form is not as big a concern as everyone is making it out to be. He's still taking wickets and he's been no different really. He's been the same around the group as he was in South Africa and in Australia, it's no different."
Johnson came into the tour with a reputation as one of the world's most fearsome wicket-takers, and as such Australia are unlikely to jettison the left-armer after just two Tests – it is not the Australian way – but his patchy form may force their selectors to pick the all-rounder Shane Watson instead of Marcus North at No 6 as he offers an option with the ball.
While Johnson's bowling at Lord's was messy, so was Haddin's keeping. The 31-year-old admitted to being tense before playing at the historic venue. He has had no such struggles with the bat, though, smashing 121 at Cardiff before registering 28 and 80 at Lord's from No 7. But, after sitting out the tour match against Northamptonshire, which Australia won, he is looking to put in a tidier performance behind the stumps for what could be a series-defining Test in Birmingham which begins on Thursday.
"It did swing a bit more past the bat at Lord's than it did in Cardiff but it's not too much of a concern," Haddin said. "That's life, you can't change the conditions. From a personal point of view, I was a bit untidy at Lord's. I think it was just one of those days, I didn't have a great Test match with the gloves. I didn't miss any chances, I was probably just a bit uptight and not as relaxed as I normally am.
"But I can't do much and worry about that now, that was a week ago, I'm looking forward to this Edgbaston Test match and making sure everything's polished. I've had a good couple of days off to refresh and now I'm ready to get my mind back around Test cricket."Reuse content