England have been warned they are playing into Australia’s hands if they continue to offer up doctored wickets with the intention of blunting Mitchell Johnson’s effectiveness.
The pitches for the opening two Test matches have been widely criticised as slow, low, flat and generally lifeless – a tactic believed to have been devised to stop Johnson from repeating his incredible efforts in the Ashes whitewash 18 months ago, when the left-arm quick snared 37 wickets.
The problem with that, according to former England captain Nasser Hussain, is that it has hurt England’s pace trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Mark Wood.
England spearhead Anderson went wicketless at Lord’s for the first time in his career and has series figures of three wickets at 71, while Wood has five at 50 runs apiece and Broad, comfortably the pick of the local bowlers, has taken nine at 24.88.
More to the point, it hasn’t hurt Johnson, who returned to terrify England’s batsmen at Lord’s, taking 3-53 and 3-27 across the two innings after a slow start in Cardiff in the series opener.
“It’s an error to play Australia on these surfaces because if Mitchell Johnson is not getting much out of it, then Broad and Anderson won’t,” Hussain said on Sky Sports.
“But he’ll always get more out of it than most (as he) bowls 92 miles (148km) an hour.
“He was incredibly hostile (on Thursday).”
If anyone has the power to deliver that message to the groundsmen of the remaining three Tests at Edgbaston, Trent Bridge and the Oval, it is England captain Alastair Cook.
Having watched Johnson terrorise his team in a annihilating 405-run loss at Lord’s on Sunday, Cook made it clear what sort of decks he would prefer to play on for the rest of the series.
“We want to play on English wickets, and (the Lord’s wicket) probably wasn’t too English”, he said.
“To get bowled out on that kind of wicket for a hundred is not good enough, not acceptable, not up to the standard that the guys can play.”
Australian captain Michael Clarke is of the opinion that no matter what wickets are served up, the best bowlers will be able to extract life out of them.
“That’s what Johnson was able to do at Lord’s, which is why Clarke is happy to back his attack on whatever is on offer for the rest of the series.
“I don’t really care about the wickets to be honest. Whatever we have to play on, we have to play on,” he said.
“Generally we’ll be playing against teams and with teams that have got good attacks.
“It doesn’t really matter too much about the surface they’ll find a way to take wickets, that’s what good bowlers do.”