England aim to quell Johnson threat

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Published: Saturday 31st January 2015 by The News Editor

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Mitchell Johnson looms large over the Tri-Series final between England and Australia, with the returning paceman occupying both team’s thoughts.

The left-arm quick tortured England with his pace and hostility in last winter’s Ashes whitewash but has been kept under wraps in recent weeks.

His appearance in the final will be his first of the tournament and a chance to reassert himself ahead of the World Cup opener between the sides on February 14.

But for England, an advance look at the 33-year-old provides the opportunity to move on from past failures before the high-stakes clash in Melbourne.

Home captain George Bailey did little to dampen enthusiasm about Johnson’s comeback, suggesting he has been back to his ferocious best in practice this week.

“We are really happy that Mitchell Johnson is back but not that happy that he has been building up his overs in the nets,” said a smiling Bailey.

“It will be nice to actually see him unleash on the opposition rather than us (Australia batsmen) being cannon fodder for the last couple of days, which has been a bit nasty.”

It was hard not to think of Johnson during the low-scoring shootout between England and India at the WACA on Friday, a game characterised by uneven bounce.

And after seeing a good length ball from James Anderson rear up and clatter Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s helmet, the prospect of Johnson’s 95mph rockets on the same track are tantalising.

“I didn’t see any of it but I heard a couple of balls were a little bit nasty, which can happen here,” said Bailey.

“A little bit more work is being done on the wicket but that’s what we like to see at the WACA, a few balls playing up.

“It’s tempting to play all four quicks when you see a wicket like that. With the two games we played against South Africa in the summer, the wicket played a lot quicker than in the second game. Hopefully it’s the same again.”

Amid all the talk of extra pace, variable bounce and Johnson’s unforgettable Ashes performance, it would be easy to see England as makeweights in the contest.

But having gritted their teeth to beat India to a place in the showpiece, that is the furthest thing from their mind.

They do not intend to let the idea of Johnson beat them before the match begins and are instead looking to go into the World Cup on an unexpected high.

Jos Buttler, who hit a mature 67 against India, said: “Mitchell Johnson is a top bowler and he’s had a brilliant 12 months but we play the game not the reputation.

“He’s a top bowler but he hasn’t played in this series. It’s a good bowling attack but that’s exactly what we need to come up against and do well against if we want to win this game.

“Things change very quickly. If we win people will say we’re going in the right direction and maybe we could cause a few upsets; if we lose we’ll be ‘same old England’. That’s always the way it is but it’s a big game for us, we’re desperate to put in a big performance against a much-fancied Australia side.”

England might hope their recent outing in Perth might give them an advantage but Buttler believes the hosts will be fully up to speed.

“I think the pitch took everyone by surprise how it played,” he said.

“We’ve played on it once so if it plays similarly we’ll know what to expect, but Australia would have watched the game and seen the pitch. Whether that’s a benefit to us I’m not sure.”

England look set to name an unchanged XI for the fourth game in a row, a sign of the growing sense of stability since Eoin Morgan replaced Alastair Cook as skipper.

Australia, meanwhile, expect to be without all-rounder Shane Watson, missing again with a hamstring injury despite netting on Saturday.

Published: Saturday 31st January 2015 by The News Editor

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