The state of Australia’s bowling is shown through Mitchell Johnson being the leading wicket-taker with eight victims, double that of Brett Lee, Cameron White and Peter Siddle, in the opening two Tests. By the tourists’ standards Johnson has been a revelation, but by a more traditional measure his overall contribution has been solid.
In the first Test in Bangalore he performed strongly before tailing off in Mohali when the bowlers were under heavy fire. He tried to operate in one-day mode when India were on the way to a lead of 516, but it didn’t work and Australia eventually lost by 230 runs.
“I’m not feeling too bad, I was a little bit disappointed in the second innings,” he said. “Other than that, I’m pretty happy with where things are at.”
The mood is not shared by the bowling line-up as a whole, which has taken 27 wickets in the opening two matches. Lee has been below-par while the fresh men of Siddle, White and Shane Watson have performed to expectations. Stuart Clark, who has an elbow injury, will add some experience in Delhi from Wednesday if he can recover in time.
Australia’s fast men have been behind Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma when it comes to reverse-swing and are exploring ways to catch up. Bowling cross seam is one possibility to achieve quicker deterioration of the ball, but not all the tourists are comfortable with the unconventional grip.
“I don’t feel too bad with it,” Johnson said. “Sometimes with my bowling technique and wrist position I don’t need to bowl too many with a cross seam because I tend to hit the rough side anyway. That’s something we’ve tried to do. I might be brought on to really roughen up one side.”
Australia have been gaining reverse shortly before the new ball is due while India have managed it within the first 15 overs. Johnson believes variation is essential to breaking up the rhythm of India’s batsmen and he has been particularly successful with a slower off-cutter. His main victim with the ball in the first Test was Sachin Tendulkar, who pushed the delivery to cover.
“Variety is key over here, definitely on the wickets we play on,” he said. “There’s not much in it for the quicks, so you need the off-cutters and the slower balls and changes of pace. Also, short balls can come into it a bit, especially if the wickets are staying a bit low.”
Johnson showed a glimpse into the current Australian mindset when he said “a lot of the guys – most of the guys – are confident” when discussing the team’s prospects of overcoming the 1-0 deficit. “We can put a lot of pressure on the Indians,” he said. “They’re going to feel it, going 1-0 up. All the pressure is on them now. There is disappointment in losing, but we’ll get back on track."
Johnson had a run-in with Harbhajan Singh during the final day of the second Test, but unlike in the 2007-08 series, there has been no lingering resentment from a handful of minor issues. “I thought I was going to get run out so I basically put my head down and ran straight and ended up running into him,” Johnson said. “Harbhajan said: why did you push me?
“I apologised. It was an accident. I basically ran my line and he was in my line. It was all over and done with out there."