Struggled … Mitchell Johnson. Michael Clarke … admitted his side was outclassed.
Impressive … Ian Bell, right, and Ravi Bopara top scored for England.
Mitchell Johnson’s return to the international game brought even the world’s most famous cricket tragic, Mick Jagger, to the Oval and there were any number of Rolling Stones songs suitable for cheap reference. A couple of more contemporary numbers, Out of Control and Biggest Mistake, sprung to mind after a wayward start, although perhaps Mixed Emotions was a fair choice in the wash-up.
This was not exactly the comeback Johnson had in mind. Well known in these parts for his hot and cold Ashes record, what the much-maligned fast bowler did not need in front of a patriotic, unforgiving and hollering assembly in London’s south was a spate of no-balls to cruel his first appearance in Australian colours since last November.
On top of that England cruised to victory in the second one-day international, reaching the victory target of 252 with six wickets and 26 balls to spare, to take a 2-0 series lead heading into Wednesday’s third match at Edgbaston.
All of a sudden their aspirations for a 5-0 series whitewash, a result that would make England the world’s top-ranked nation in all three cricket formats, are not looking overly ambitious but thoroughly achievable. Australia, the floundering world No.1 team in the ODI game, look to have few answers, and even captain Michael Clarke admitted there is a serious gulf between the nations.
“I think the scoreboard at the first game at Lord’s probably hid how far away the teams were,” Clarke conceded. “I think England outplayed us at Lord’s and they certainly outplayed us here. We need to get better quickly.”
Thanks largely to Ian Bell’s 75 and a dashing 82 by Ravi Bopara, the hosts reeled in Australia’s 7-251 with ease. Johnson, in fairness, could not shoulder any more of the blame than anyone else for this defeat because Australia’s attack was largely ineffective and lacking in firepower. However, he made a disastrous start to his first appearance for Australia in eight months, conceding 20 runs in his first two overs, the result of three no-balls and the subsequent free hits. It saw him hauled out of the attack.
A late addition after the withdrawal from the series of teenager Patrick Cummins – he has broken down again with a side strain – Johnson has always been an erratic force of nature, but after the early shambles he did find some rhythm when recalled to the attack, exerting some swing and edging up over the 145km/h mark on occasion.
Finding his groove just briefly, the 30-year-old left-armer gave Bopara in particular several worrying moments, but ultimately finished without reward and uninspiring figures of 0-43 from seven overs.
Johnson is back from a long lay-off with injury that, like Cummins, sidelined him for the whole summer, but even before he was struck down last year there were calls for his head due to deteriorating form.
Clarke admitted Johnson’s control was not up to scratch but said the same applied across the board with his bowlers.
“I think our bowling in general we didn’t control the ball enough against good opposition on a pretty good wicket,” he said. “We bowled too many no-balls and wides as well. It wasn’t good enough.
“[Johnson] has been high on confidence, he’s been bowling very well in the nets. It’s his first game back so it’s going to take a bit of time. But Mitch was really looking forward to his opportunity today. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get a win up but it is great to have him back around the group.”
Shane Watson (66) and George Bailey (65) had top-scored for Australia but their total was seen as modest, an assumption that turned out to be correct. England spinner Graeme Swann in particular was outstanding in triggering a go-slow in the Australian middle order that ultimately put the anchors on their hopes of victory.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.