All those that doubted Johnson’s ability please take this opportunity to say you were misguided. The problem with the doubters, many English among them, was that they had not seen the Mitchell Johnson we had. The one that could break Graeme Smith’s hand twice. The one that could take 11 wickets in a match.
And all the Thomas’s that questioned the wisdom of Johnson undergoing remedial work in the nets as opposed to playing in the Shield. I have maintained that the Shield is not the finishing school it used to be. Talented players can only go so far before they plateau. At the root of this is the scheduling that prevents our elite cricketers from playing in the Shield.
And while I am still at it, all those who scorned Ponting’s captaincy, please wash your mouth out after you have eaten the humble pie. You can gloat about his batting failure but I caution you not to write off a champion. He is after all younger than Tendulkar.
And since I am on a roll both Pietersen and Trott were out to full balls that they tried to work through midwicket. So our much maligned Philip Hughes is in good company. The fact that he perished to a “caught at the crease” no-technique prod does not vindicate your derision. Doug Walters had an unorthodox style. Sehwag bats out of the copy book. Perhaps these men challenge your orthodoxy?
I can’t stop now because many will not know that India’s fabled batting, including Sachin Tendulkar, were unnerved and dismantled by the moving ball in centurion two days ago. The message in this is that good players can be undone by good bowling. England bowled well on the first day. That did not mean someone like Ponting was history.
Three days before the start of this Perth Test I wrote in the Advertiser (News Ltd. Adelaide) that the selectors had got it right. I also said Australia could win this test. Having bowled England out for 187 and then scored 115 for the loss of three wickets Australia can win. I am not saying they WILL win but they can. The remaining batsmen need to score a minimum of another 150 runs.
Last week I was approached by an Indian sports magazine that wanted me to a piece on Australia losing in Perth and writing Ponting’s obituary. There is a vicarious appetite in India to read about anything connected with Australia’s decline as a cricket powerhouse. I would not want to write this article and am hoping Australia can continue its revival.
Australia has fought hard from being four down for 36. Hussey kept his eyes and nose over the makers mark on the ball. He ran like a man chased by demons and spanked the loose ball with all the gusto of a Muslim breaking his fast during Ramadan.
Brad Haddin is no Gilchrist. He is Brad Haddin and the comparisons do neither any justice. Haddin’s off drive and straight drive is minimalist art at its best. Very little effort and an abundance of sweet timing.
Hussey’s pulling had the dexterity one associates with the great Beer masters of Belgium. Timing and sure hands showed there was life in this corpse yet. Australian Cricket for the time being can be branded H & H. On the first day these two put on 69 in the hour after lunch and kept Australia in the game. Johnson’s late hitting gave Australia some credibility and the last pair of Siddle and Hilfenhaus proved there was spirit all the way down to number 11.
With England at 0-78 and an hour into the second day astute commentators on Channel 9 and passionate Roarers were lamenting at Australia’s inability to break through. But they had not reckoned with the Johnson revival. Take a bow Troy Cooley. And the selectors, especially Greg Chappell. He should be made Chairman without any further debate.
Johnson dropped 5kph in pace and bowled in the low 140’s. But he compensated with accuracy and rediscovered the ball back into the right handers and away from the lefties. His final figures of 6-38 endorsed his rehab as complete. He is a finely strung talent and needs to be kept in tune.
This Test match may still have a few more twists and Australia will have to build with caution and timely aggression. But let us put a stop to pulling down champions and bagging captains. Strauss had a Ponting-like despair every time Finn pitched short and was carted by Watson. Strauss had his cover fielder on the boundary for Swann along with three on the on-side boundary. And Pietersen at long –off. This was Ponting at Mohali not so long ago. Good bowling makes Brearleys of captains.
Ponting will not be relieved of the captaincy anytime soon. If he goes it will be because of his batting. I believe the selectors should stick with this 12 for Melbourne and Sydney regardless of the result in Perth. Obviously a win for Australia will silence the debate.