Johnson set to do more damage

Australia's Mitchell Johnson bowling during a training session, watched by batsman Mitchell Marsh. The paceman took six wickets in the 405-run drubbing of the hosts in the second Test and his team are pleased with the way he is easing into the series
Australia's Mitchell Johnson bowling during a training session, watched by batsman Mitchell Marsh. The paceman took six wickets in the 405-run drubbing of the hosts in the second Test and his team are pleased with the way he is easing into the series.PHOTO: REUTERS

He, Starc and other bowlers ready to heap misery on latest England top order

LONDON • If Mitchell Johnson gave England food for thought with the hostility of his bowling during the second Ashes Test at Lord's, then his success has also made his colleagues think.

As the teams prepared for the encounter at Edgbaston starting today, Mitchell Starc said that his fellow Australia bowlers will take a leaf from Johnson's successful book.

While England have tried to play down the Johnson threat - Moeen Ali suggesting that their nemesis of 2013-14 has so far bowled well in only one innings out of four - Australia are quite happy with the way he has eased into the series.

"I am sure we will be following suit from what Mitch dished up at the end at Lord's," Starc said.

"It was great to see a few of the England guys jumping about and we got a few wickets that way. It was nice to watch as a team-mate. I hope there is a bit of pace in this Edgbaston pitch, and it is a bit harder than the others so far. The short stuff will be on the menu."

Ian Bell will bear some of the brunt of the promised bouncers in his latest incarnation at No. 3. England are gambling in trying to arrest poor starts at the top of the innings by promoting a batsman short on confidence with just 128 runs in 12 innings, including seven scores of nought or one, behind him.

There was a tacit admission by Bell on Monday that he needs to halt the sequence to avoid a fate worse than that to befall Gary Ballance. Although dropped after the 405-run loss at Lord's, Ballance is likely to return at some point. If Bell goes, he may well be gone for good.

"Any time you have the opposition changing line-ups you are in a good spot," Starc said.

His point sounded more credible than a counter from Joe Root that promotion for Jonny Bairstow shows the strength of England's middle order at present. Bairstow is in the form of his life; Bell and Ballance most certainly are not.

Surprisingly, given that he is about to play on his home ground, Bell was kept away from the print media on Monday, although he told Sky Sports that he has been through "a tricky little six weeks".

He said: "Your job is to score runs and the runs have been nowhere near as many as I would like, but the game does change very quickly.

"Hopefully, this week is the start of me getting myself back into the form I expect and I have shown over the past 11 years. I am realistic. I have not performed over these six weeks to the level I expect an England player to perform. I am desperate for the runs that come with being a top-order player."

Root, inevitably, backed Bell to succeed in the position he fills for Warwickshire. Starc, just as inevitably, was unconvinced.

"Bairstow is not a No. 3 so it was always going to be Bell or Joe there," Starc said. "Ian might be more comfortable at No. 3, I am not sure."

Along with Bell, the pitch is sure to be under scrutiny after the call by Alastair Cook and Trevor Bayliss, England captain and head coach respectively, for something closer to a traditional English seaming surface than the slow pitches at Cardiff and Lord's.

Mick Hunt, the Marylebone Cricket Club groundsman, was on hand on Monday along with Chris Wood, the England and Wales Cricket Board pitches consultant.

Starc believes that England are confused. "I don't think they know what pitches they want," he said. "It sounds as though there is a bit of grass on this one. I will be surprised if it stays that way but if it does, then I am sure the quick bowlers will be lining up." THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Johnson set to do more damage'. Print Edition | Subscribe