Johnson is still a concern but Hughes does enough

Northants 226-7dec Australia 308-8dec & 139-0

Nothing that has happened here should diminish English confidence ahead of the third Test. If anything, as Andrew Strauss and Co begin to prepare in earnest to build on their 1-0 Ashes lead at Edgbaston, it will only be enhanced after Australia's struggle to impose authority against modest county opposition.

It wasn't simply that Northamptonshire, sixth in Division Two, were able to take five wickets for 55 yesterday morning, or that they could then maintain a scoring rate close to four and a half an over in the afternoon that depressed the tourists' mood. It is that the worry over the form of strike bowler Mitchell Johnson looks no closer to being solved.

Phillip Hughes, the other member of the side causing serious concern, responded to his dismissal for 10 on Friday by sharing a century opening-partnership with Andrew McDonald. It was an innings – or at least a score – that will offer some comfort to the Australian selectors.

It was by no means flawless, either. David Lucas was convinced he had him caught behind down the leg side on 24, while he was lucky on 28 when an edge off David Wigley flew between wicketkeeper and first slip.

With no back-up opener in the Australian squad, Hughes may be spared, but there is no such security for Johnson, whose waywardness with the ball allowed England to make flying starts in both innings at Lord's.

But Johnson was no more able than Hughes to put his troubles to bed. After Australia had rather messed up their chance for batting practice and decided to put their bowlers through their paces, first use of the new ball was given to Peter Siddle and Stuart Clark, from which the inference could be drawn that Australia would persevere with their misfiring left-armer and were giving Clark, missing from the Test side since November after sustaining an elbow injury, the opportunity to bowl himself into contention at Siddle's expense.

Yet they may have to reconsider after Johnson was all too easily picked off, conceding 42 runs in seven wicketless overs. Former England under-19 captain Alex Wakely combined with Riki Wessels in a brisk fourth-wicket partnership that had given Northamptonshire's first innings much of its substance before they declared at 226-7, some 82 behind Australia's 308-8.

Clark, by contrast, showed good control, taking a top-order wicket each side of lunch, and while Siddle was almost as expensive as Johnson he did see his aggression rewarded with three wickets. All-rounder Shane Watson who will, like Clark, fancy his chances of a recall, was successful too. The day had begun with Australia's stand-in captain, Mike Hussey, retiring on his overnight 75. Rumours of a calf strain proved unfounded, yet the air of confusion persisted, not least in the mind, it seemed, of Marcus North who may be threatened by Watson's impressive performance here should the Australian selectors leave their opening pair intact. Despite the need to make some sort of counter-statement after Watson's 84, North came up with a loose, one-handed shot off Lucas, the left-arm seamer, hit straight to cover point. North had added only seven to his overnight 32.

Graham Manou, Australia's 30-year-old wicketkeeping understudy with no previous international experience, lasted one ball on his debut for his country, playing across the line to Lucas to be leg before. Johnson survived the hat-trick ball, but that was not the end of the tourists' troubles.

Northamptonshire fielded a weakened line-up – Monty Panesar and their three South Africans were excused – but lack of experience was balanced by added enthusiasm encapsulated in Jack Brooks, 25, a seamer making his senior debut for the county. He sent down a dozen overs on Friday without success but resumed the quest for his maiden wicket undeterred.

Brooks was working as a sales rep this time last year while playing Minor Counties cricket for Oxfordshire, so when he uprooted two of McDonald's stumps his excitement was understandable. Dancing with his hands clenched towards a welcoming committee of slips and gully, it was a celebration bearing the Monty hallmark. Two balls later, when Johnson edged to slip, he did it all over again.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
Life and Style
tech
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
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

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'