Where the bloody hell was Mitchell Johnson?
Mitchell Johnson (AAP)
Lost in the embarrassing batting capitulation by the Australians at the Gabba on Friday were the curious tactics implemented by captain Michael Clarke.
Defending an underwhelming total of 74, Australia needed nothing short of a miracle to secure victory.
Despite losing Mahela Jayawardene in the first over, Sri Lanka were well on track at 1/33 with the run rate irrelevant in such a minuscule chase.
Enter Mitchell Johnson who appeared “in the mood” and in the space of six deliveries, had ripped out three wickets and given Australia a sniff.
Come the tea break the Sri Lankans had consolidated slightly to be 4/48, with only 27 needed to secure a 2-1 advantage in the series.
At this stage Johnson had completed three overs for a return of 3/11. This would remain his match figures, as Johnson was not called upon after the 30-minute interval.
Instead Clarke opted for his new-ball pairing of Clint McKay and Mitchell Starc, in addition to Moises Henriques.
Why Johnson was not used upon the resumption of tea is bemusing, bizarre and downright baffling.
Why is the most experienced bowler in terms of games and wickets, who is additionally a proven, albeit inconsistent match-winner, not implemented when quick wickets are a necessity?
Not for a minute am I suggesting we would have won if Johnson continued bowling, but surely Australia’s sixth highest ODI wicket-taker gets a trundle when the game is on the line.
Australia did manage a further two wickets as Sri Lanka limped over the line, but the final wicket of the match came with just four runs required.
In the after-match press conference Clarke was quizzed on Johnson’s absence following the tea break.
“I thought Mitchell Starc with a little bit more height, I was going to start with him then bring Johnson back on,” he said.
“But Starcy got a couple of wickets, and that’s just the way it panned out.”
Yes Starc did get “a couple of wickets”, the second of which was Jeevan Mendis who fell with the score at 71, and the Sri Lankans just a boundary from victory.
Even so, Starc is merely one option, the game of cricket enables two bowlers to operate simultaneously.
McKay and even Henriques, with just one international wicket to his name, were picked ahead of Johnson.
Clarke has been an excellent leader, executing tactical nous not seen since Mark Taylor. However this uncanny strategy is an aberration in an aggression at all costs captaincy methodology.