Perth: Matt Prior is urging his England teammates to dispense with the survival instinct and take the fight up to Mitchell Johnson, or forget about retaining the Ashes. (Also read: Cooks brain is scrambled, says Boycott)
Johnson has taken 17 wickets already in Australia's first two victories, peppering the English batsmen with short-pitch bowling at express pace. Making matters worse for England, Johnson wants to secure the Ashes for Australia on his adopted home ground at the WACA in the third Test starting Friday, and he's tipped to be bowling even faster on the nation's quickest Test pitch.
"I would hate to see this team, with the batting talent we have, to go out there and just try and survive" Prior said. "That's not the way we're going to win in Australia. We have to find ways of putting pressure back on the Aussie bowlers," he said.
Australia won the first Test by 381 runs in Brisbane and the second Test by 218 runs on a flat wicket in Adelaide. Johnson was voted player-of-the-match both times, and he's at home this week on a ground where he produced his career-best Test bowling figures and took nine wickets in the corresponding Test of the 2010-11 Ashes series.
So after losing three consecutive Ashes series, the Australians are favorites to regain the urn on a ground where England hasn't won since 1978.
"For an England cricketer, it doesn't get any harder - two-nil down in an Ashes series coming to Perth," Prior said. "Everything is against us. People have written us off. We're at Perth, we haven't won here for however many years - that, quite frankly, excites me.
"There is a huge amount of hunger to turn it around in this Test match."
England are bound to get another hostile reception in Perth from the crowd, more aggression and intimidation from Johnson and the Australian pace attack and will be playing in temperatures hitting at least 37 Celsius (99 Fahrenheit) every day.
Prior spoke about "brutal honesty" and "fronting up" in a news conference on Wednesday, and was "absolutely, 100 percent" confident England would fight their way out of a losing situation ahead of the fourth and fifth Tests in Melbourne and Sydney. (Also read: We're not scared of Johnson, says Flower)
Prior ended a scoring drought with a defiant half century in the second innings in Adelaide, when England were bowled out for 312 - their first innings above 180 in the series. After taking 7-40 in the first innings, Johnson only got one wicket in the second and Prior saw signs that the batsmen no longer feared the fiery bowling and were starting to take on the short balls. And that's what they're planning on doing in Perth.
Johnson doesn't see it that way. "If that's the way they think they can score then go ahead," Johnson said. "It's a different wicket to what it was in Adelaide. It was pretty flat and pretty slow toward the end and balls weren't really getting up.
"It's a lot easier to get a short ball here, which I'm not going to be afraid of using." (Related: Aussies' task is to keep Johnson on fire, says Lehmann)
Johnson has been bowling consistently above 150 kph (93 mph) and Australia's fast bowling coach, Craig McDermott, said the extra adrenalin combined with the bounce and carry in Perth would make the 32-year-old paceman even faster and harder to handle.
Johnson hit the WACA sightscreen on the second bounce when bowling for Western Australia in a recent Sheffield Shield match - indicating the ferocious pace that he can generate there - but insisted its not all about speed.
"I'm not worried about bowling 155, 160 clicks. I don't think that's important to me," he said. "I just want to feel good with my rhythm ... stick to what's worked for us. When my rhythm is on, the ball comes out the way it does and it's at good pace. That's all that matters to me."