ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – Mitchell Johnson terrified the England batsmen on Saturday, taking seven wickets with some fearsome fast bowling and helping Australia move to the cusp of back-to-back victories to start the Ashes series.
In a hectic third day of the second test, 12 wickets tumbled after England resumed at 35-1 in reply to Australia’s 570-9 declared.
The English were skittled for 172, with Johnson returning 7-40 including a withering spell of 5-12 in 18 balls, and David Warner scored 83 not out to help Australia to 132-3 — and a 530-run lead — by stumps.
After electing not to enforce the follow-on in a bid to keep its pace attack fresh for the third test, Australia slipped to 4-2 — with Jimmy Anderson dismissing Chris Rogers (2) and Shane Watson (0) within two balls in the third over — before Warner combined in a 61-run stand with Michael Clarke (22) and an unbeaten 67-run partnership with Steve Smith (23).
Australia is expected to bat on in the morning to kill off any chance of an unprecedented fourth-innings comeback victory, then aim to roll England within five sessions.
“We want to get them back out there in the field and keep cooking them a bit,” Johnson said. “The runs are irrelevant at the moment, but we probably will be looking at keeping them out there, hopefully see (Warner) get his hundred and then having a real crack … at them.”
Johnson’s spell starting just after lunch rocked England’s middle and lower order and was instrumental in giving the Australians a 398-run first-innings lead.
Only Ian Bell (72 not out) and Michael Carberry (60) defied Johnson.
Bell said the England players would be hurting but weren’t beyond salvaging a draw, provided two or three batsmen stood up to Johnson in the second innings.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to find an answer because he’s blowing us away middle and lower order.”
It was the third straight innings in this series that England has failed to reach 200, with Johnson’s pace proving just as effective on the slower Adelaide Oval pitch as it was when he took nine wickets in the 381-run victory in the first test at Brisbane.
Johnson, who was not considered good enough for selection for the last Ashes tour to England, where Australia lost 3-0, rattled the touring batsmen and was twice on a hat-trick.
“The rhythm has just stuck with me,” the 32-year-old Johnson said. “There’s been talk in the past where I can have those performances where I can blow a team away and in the next one not turn up, so for me I think that’s why it was a bit more emotional and special.”
He commenced work on his ninth five-wicket haul in tests by clean bowling England skipper Alastair Cook (3) on Friday.
Johnson didn’t take a wicket in the morning session Saturday but was devastating in the middle session, producing a triple wicket-maiden in his second over; trapping Ben Stokes (1) lbw and then snaring Matt Prior (0) caught behind and bowling Stuart Broad’s (0) stumps.
Graeme Swann prevented the hat trick, only for Johnson to set up another hat-trick chance by claiming wickets on the last two balls of his next over: Swann slashed to Clarke at second slip and Anderson was bowled next ball as England slid to 135-9.
Bell blocked the hat-trick ball and then went on the attack with No.11 Monty Panesar.
The England No. 5 took 18 runs off an over from Ryan Harris, hitting three fours to raise his 50 and England’s 150 then pulling a six in front of the Sir Donald Bradman Pavilion.
They put on 37 for the last wicket before Panesar (2) was bowled by Johnson.
Where Johnson was nearly unplayable after lunch, it was some England batting lapses which caused the damage in the morning.
Joe Root (15) swept the first ball he faced from Nathan Lyon directly to Rogers at deep backward square and Kevin Pietersen (4) made it 66-3 with his cavalier dismissal. Tying to stamp some authority, he walked into a Peter Siddle ball and clipped a catch to short mid-wicket where George Bailey took a juggling catch on the third grab.
Bell and Carberry knuckled down but some sustained tight bowling by Ryan Harris and Watson — producing five straight maiden overs — prompted Carberry to hit out. He succeeded only in pulling a Watson delivery to Warner, who took a spectacular low catch at square leg.