Mitchell Johnson is vowing to continue his intimidation of England batsmen, and appears amused by the tourists’ plans to fight fire with fire. England have been powerless to resist Johnson for much of the first two Tests, suffering hapless collapses against the left-arm quick both in Brisbane and Adelaide on the way to landslide defeats.
So it is they must redouble efforts at the WACA, home of the world’s fastest playing surfaces and a venue likely to play into Johnson’s hands. England wicketkeeper Matt Prior, an instinctive counter-attacker, suggested on Wednesday that there will be no more timidity in the way he and his team-mates bat against Johnson.
The demon bowler himself, however, merely raised an eyebrow and suppressed a smile when England’s new tactics were revealed to him. “ ‘Get after you’ - if that’s the way they think they can score, then go ahead,” he said. “It’s a different wicket to what it was in Adelaide. It was pretty flat and pretty slow towards the end, and balls weren’t really getting up. It’s a lot easier to get a short ball here - which I’m not going to be afraid of using.”
Johnson will not shy away either from the occasional verbal bouncer, to complement his line of attack, if he thinks it might help discomfort his prey. “That’s fast bowling, isn’t it?” he said. “Throughout history, it’s all about intimidating. If you can bowl a ball at someone’s grille, I don’t care who you are you are going to feel intimidated - and especially on a wicket like Perth. I like the idea that being a fast bowler, you can be aggressive and intimidate.”
Australia captain Michael Clarke, like opposite number Alastair Cook, will be playing in his 100th Test on Friday. Johnson himself is gearing up for his 54th, at the age of 32, and is full of admiration for Clarke. “It is obviously a proud moment for him, but also for his team,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal effort to make 100 Tests.
It’s a lot of days out in the field and a lot of heartache that goes with it - but also a lot of happy times as well, like we’re going through at the moment. I hope we can make it a happy time for him.”
Clarke was fined almost 2,000 pounds by the International Cricket Council for his part in an on-field spat with James Anderson in the opening Test. Yet Johnson believes Clarke got it right at the Gabba. He said: “He’s been aggressive when he needed to be, pulled it back when he’s needed to.”