Mercurial paceman Mitchell Johnson rediscovered his lost form to help Australia skittle England for 187 and wrest back the initiative on a pulsating second day of the third Ashes Test yesterday.
Swinging the ball into the right-handers at high pace, Johnson smashed through England’s top order. He then cleaned up the tail to finish with 6-38 in a brilliant return after he was dropped for the second Test in Adelaide following a wayward, wicketless display in the opener in Brisbane.
At the close Australia were 119 for three, an overall lead of 200. The hosts are battling to level the five-Test series and prevent England from becoming the first English team to take the Ashes home in 24 years.
“I didn’t really get too down on being dropped. Obviously I was disappointed at the time when I found out, but I knew I had to work on a few things and that’s what I did,” said Johnson, who spent two weeks toiling in the nets in a bid to find his groove between the Tests.
“I felt so good in those sessions that I had, and to go out there in the middle and to be able to do it was great,” he said.
After England raced to 78 without loss in reply to Australia’s 268, Johnson induced Alastair Cook (32) to miscue a drive straight to Michael Hussey at gully, then trapped Jonathan Trott for 4 and Kevin Pietersen LBW for a duck.
Johnson grabbed his third LBW by dismissing Paul Collingwood for 5 then celebrated his fifth and sixth wickets by bowling Chris Tremlett for 2 and getting James Anderson caught for a duck.
Ryan Harris finished with 3-59 after dismissing England captain Andrew Strauss for 52, Ian Bell (53) and Graeme Swann for 11.
The England pace bowlers struck back after their batsmen had conceded an 81-run lead.
Steve Finn removed Phillip Hughes for 12, coaxing a nick from the 22-year-old opener that went straight to Paul Collingwood’s safe hands at third slip.
He then had Ricky Ponting caught behind for 1 when the struggling Australia captain feathered a catch off his glove to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Ponting, who has not surpassed 12 runs in his past four innings, was given not out, but England successfully appealed the decision.
Michael Clarke smashed four boundaries in an aggressive 20-run cameo, but undid himself by chasing a Chris Tremlett delivery onto his stumps as Australia wobbled on 64-3.
Clarke’s dismissal brought the hosts’ serial rescuer Hussey to the crease and the 35-year-old left-hander proved rock-solid again, adding an unbeaten 24 in a 55-run stand with opener Shane Watson (61 not out).
The pitch which proved a handful for batsmen throughout the day after losing its teeth in the afternoon on Thursday, may yet provide enough movement to restrict Australia’s bid to level the series.
“[The pitch] has sort of quickened up now and it’s got a really nice bounce on it, so ... look, hopefully it’s going to favor us and we can perform well again on it,” Johnson said. “It’s probably different to the last couple of years, so I’m not really sure.”
Passions spilled over with several heated verbal exchanges in the middle as Australia’s bowlers peppered the English batsmen with bruising short-pitched deliveries.
“It’s an Ashes Test match. Both teams are desperate to win. We know our record as well at the WACA, so we’re desperate to make a bit of history here as well,” Bell said.
England have won only once in Perth, defeating an Australian side weakened by defections to World Series cricket in 1978.
“Nothing spilled over at all. It’s aggressive Ashes cricket which is what everyone wants to see,” Bell said.
“In a five-Test series you can have bad days and today was a bad day for us,” he said.
“[We’ll] go back tonight, recover and come back fighting tomorrow, which I think this teams done really well over the past 18 months,” he said.
S AFRICA V INDIA
AFP, CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA
Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen shared a century opening stand as South Africa moved towards a commanding lead on the second day of the first Test at SuperSport Park yesterday.
South Africa were 236 for two at tea, a first innings lead of 100 after India were bowled out for 136 in the first over of the day.
Smith and Petersen put on 111 for the first wicket before Smith was caught behind for 62 off Harbhajan Singh in the last over before lunch.
Petersen went on to make 77 and added 55 with Hashim Amla for the second wicket before he fell to a bat-pad catch off Harbhajan.
South Africa continued to dominate, however, with Amla (50 not out) and Kallis (42 not out) putting on an unbeaten 69 for the third wicket. Amla reached his half-century off the last ball before tea.
It took South Africa fast bowler Morne Morkel just three balls to wrap up India’s first innings at the start of the day. Morkel trapped Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni leg before wicket for 33 as India failed to add to their overnight total of 136 for nine. Morkel had Test-best figures of five for 20.
Although Sree Sreesanth conceded six runs in the first over of the South Africa innings, including a wide, only three runs were scored in the next five overs as he and Ishant Sharma bowled steadily, while the batsman were content to draw the sting from the attack on a pitch still helping the bowlers.
The first 50 partnership of the match took 81 minutes and 96 balls of careful batting, but the second 50 came at a run a ball as the batsmen started to take control.
South Africa captain Smith looked in fine form as he reached his personal half-century off 72 balls when he cut off-spinner Harbhajan for his ninth boundary.
Harbhajan conceded 32 runs off his first four overs, including a swept six by Petersen off the first ball he faced from the bowler. But the spinner made the breakthrough when Smith tried one cut too many and edged the ball to Dhoni.