Australia set to stick with Johnson

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Aus are likely to keep faith with struggling fast bowler Johnson for the third Ashes Test against England, starting here at Edgbaston from Thursday.

Updated: July 29, 2009 11:50 IST
  • Total Shares


Australia are likely to keep faith with struggling fast bowler Mitchell Johnson for the third Ashes Test against England, starting here at Edgbaston from Thursday.

But Australia captain Ricky Ponting said he was planning to give the left-arm quick a different role to the one he'd played in the first two Tests.

Johnson arrived in England with the reputation of being the best pace bowler currently in world cricket.

But in the first two Tests of this series, Johnson has taken eight wickets for 331 runs at an expensive average of 41 apiece and conceded runs at a rate of four an over.

Johnson's struggles continued during last week's tour game against Northamptonshire, where he had figures of one for 107 from 18.1 overs.

He started to lose form during a poor spell with the new ball on the final afternoon of the first Test in Cardiff, where England clung on for a draw, and continued during the home side's 115-run win in the second Test - Australia's first Ashes defeat at Lord's in 75 years.

Former captain Allan Border has been among those calling for Johnson to be dropped but Ponting said he wanted to use the 27-year-old as more of a strike, rather than stock, bowler.

"There has been a lot of talk about his technique and his action being all over the place," Ponting told reporters here on Wednesday.

"We have had some good close looks at that and it is actually not. I think right at the moment it is more of a confidence thing and we will probably look at him in this game playing in a slightly different way than I have in the last couple of games and use him more as a strike impact type of bowler.

"As we have seen anyway he has had the ability to strike for us and take wickets for us. That part of his game is still there."

Asked if he ever considered dropping Johnson, Ponting replied: "No to tell you the truth".

Pressed on whether his comments meant Johnson was now definitely in the third Test team, Ponting tried to back-track by saying Australia had still to finalise their XI. But the inference of his earlier remarks seemed clear.

However, with the accurate Stuart Clark waiting in the wings, the selectors may yet decide to make a change to their seam attack.

Former Australia captain Kim Hughes has blamed a public falling out between Johnson and the bowler's mother, Vikki Harber, for the player's loss of form.

Harber has accused Johnson's fiancee, Jessica Bratich, of stealing her from him and said her son's partner was more interested in money and fame than Johnson's career.

Ponting admitted that there have been off-field issues for Johnson that have "probably not been making life any easier for him or us".

But Johnson told Australia's Woman's Day magazine Harber was not to blame for his struggles out in the middle.

"It probably might seem, at this time, like things have been distracting me. I was a bit disappointed with what has been going on, but I don't let things like that distract me," Johnson said.

"Otherwise, you are thinking about what's going on when you are in the field and you can't focus."

Meanwhile England captain Andrew Strauss insisted Johnson remained a dangerous opponent.

"He's been a fantastic performer for a number of Tests, the last couple he's had a bit of a lean trot," Strauss told reporters," he said.

"He obviously bowls wicket-taking deliveries. "You can kind of see why he's taken so many wickets in a short space of time. I think the more overs he bowls, the better he is going to get, it's just a question for the Aussies as to whether they are going to play him or not," Strauss said.

It is 12 years since Australia were 1-0 down in an Ashes series but Ponting said he took heart from the way they fought back in the Lord's Test.

"That said a lot about the players and a lot about the Australian spirit. When we have a point to prove, it's generally when our best stuff comes out.

"We have to be spot on because we have to win this one or the next one (the fourth Test at Headingley) if we want to win the Ashes."

For the latest Cricket news , Score, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and get the NDTV Cricket app for Android or iOS

Leave a comment