The Mitch is back (and he’s remembered to pitch up…)

by Andrew Gigacz

It was interesting to hear Mitch Johnson, in an interview after his great performance at the WACA yesterday, say that the biggest difference between his bowling at the Gabba and at Perth was his follow-through. He said he’d been falling away too early but was now going right through after his delivery.

That might well be true. But the really important thing was that he started pitching the ball up. The follow-through correction might have assisted in Johnson regaining some swing, but swing is only useful when the ball is pitched on a good line and length.

The combination worked with devastating effect. Even outside Johnson’s six wicket-taking deliveries, there were numerous others that the bat got nowhere near.

So you’d reckon the other bowlers and the captain would learn from that. With England at 5/90-odd shortly before lunch, Ponting called upon Peter Siddle. Siddle is not the type of bowler to gain prodigious late swing as Johnson can. But you don’t need huge swing to take wickets. A slight amount and/or a bit of movement off the seam is enough. Assuming the ball is going to be pitched up…

But between Punter and Siddle, they conspired to come up with a plan that involved almost exclusively short-pitched balls. In general, the tactic got the punishment it deserved but a very lucky ricochet onto the stumps saw Prior knocked over with one of those short balls. Sadly, it appeared that Siddle saw this as vindication of the short-pitched barrage policy.

As I commented during the First Test, and as Ian Chappell pointed out in commentary while Siddle was being comfortably dispatched to the square leg boundary, the short ball is most effective as a shock ball.

And in Perth, you can pitch the ball on a good length and still get bounce. One hopes that someone can get this message to Ponting and the other quick bowlers, even if Tim Nielson and co cannot see how blindingly obvious it is.

Having said all that, it was a wonderful day for Australia, built almost exclusively on Johnson’s 6/38. A lead of 200 going into Day Three should have Australia firmly in the box seat. Hughes failed again and Punter’s horror run continues. Clarke showed admirable intent when he arrived at the crease but, after blazing his way to 20, he should’ve had the maturity to tell himself it was time to temper things. He didn’t and was bowled trying to force a ball that was probably best left alone.

Watson might well be better suited down the order, as many have claimed, but the fact is that in the first innings in Adelaide, and both innings in Perth, he has remained at the crease when the first three wickets have fallen around him. I suspect he will be a Test opener for some time yet.

If Australia can extend their lead to 420, I think they should declare at that point, regardless of the amount of time left in the match. That would set two challenges. One to England, who would have to achieve a world-record fourth-innings chase to win the Test and retain the Ashes. And one to the Australian bowlers. 420 runs to play with on a wicket that will reward you if you bowl in the right spot!

I still don the whites on a Saturday arvo. I bowl gentle inswingers at a pace of which even the word “medium” as a descriptor is probably an exaggeration. But I bowl at the stumps. Last weekend, I took 5/13. Three of those wickets were bowled. My lack of pace means I occasionally see the ball sail a long way back over my head. But the old rule remains: if the batsmen miss, I hit!

At the pace the Australian quicks bowl, and with 400 plus runs on the board to defend, it’s a rule that, if followed, will allow them to square the series.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. John Butler says

    Gigs, I doubt Siddle has arrived at that strategy on his own. Whether its Punter or Nielsen, they should take heed of your advice. He took his hat-trick by pitching up.

    But the day belonged to the enigmatic Mitch. As long as he stays hot, we have a contest on our hands.

  2. Let’s hope that the Brisbane Johnson doesn’t resurface in the next episode of United States of Mitchell.

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Nice one Adam.

    Gigs, spot on with your tactical assessment of Siddle. He has heart.

  4. Andrew Starkie says

    Sidds is a Roo, of course he has heart.

    Let’s hope the boys get the job done today and we head to Melb with the series alive. Will be there all 5 days.

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