PERTH, (Reuters) – Mercurial paceman Mitchell Johnson rediscovered his lost form to help Australia skittle England for 187 and wrest back the initiative on a pulsating second day of the third Ashes test yesterday.
Swinging the ball into the right-handers at high pace, Johnson smashed through England’s top order. He then cleaned up the tail to finish with 6-38 in a brilliant return after he was dropped for the second test in Adelaide following a wayward, wicketless display in the opener in Brisbane.
At the close Australia were 119 for three, an overall lead of 200. The hosts are battling to level the five-test series and prevent England from becoming the first English team to take the Ashes home in 24 years.
“I didn’t really get too down on being dropped. Obviously I was disappointed at the time when I find out but I knew I had to work on a few things and that’s what I did,” said Johnson.
After England raced to 78 without loss in reply to Australia’s 268, Johnson induced Alastair Cook (32) to miscue a drive straight to Michael Hussey at gully, then trapped Jonathan Trott for four and Kevin Pietersen lbw for a duck.
Johnson grabbed his third lbw by dismissing Paul Collingwood for five then celebrated his fifth and sixth wickets by bowling Chris Tremlett for two and getting James Anderson caught for a duck.
Ryan Harris finished with 3-59 after dismissing England captain Andrew Strauss for 52, Ian Bell (53) and Graeme Swann for 11.
The England pace bowlers struck back after their batsmen had conceded an 81-run lead.
Steve Finn removed Phillip Hughes for 12, coaxing a nick from the 22-year-old opener that went straight to Paul Collingwood’s safe hands at third slip.
He then had Ricky Ponting caught behind for one with the struggling Australian captain feathering a catch off his glove to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Michael Clarke smashed four boundaries in an aggressive 20-run cameo but undone himself by chasing a Chris Tremlett delivery onto his stumps as Australia wobbled on 64-3.
Clarke’s dismissal brought the hosts’ serial rescuer Hussey to the crease and the 35-year-old left-hander proved rock-solid again, adding an unbeaten 24 in a 55-run stand with opener Shane Watson (61 not out).
Australia first innings 268 (M. Johnson 62, M. Hussey 61, B. Haddin 53)
England first innings (overnight 29-0)
A. Strauss c Haddin b Harris 52
A. Cook c Hussey b Johnson 32
J. Trott lbw b Johnson 4
K. Pietersen lbw b Johnson 0
P. Collingwood lbw b Johnson 5
I. Bell c Ponting b Harris 53
M. Prior b Siddle 12
G. Swann c Haddin b Harris 11
C. Tremlett b Johnson 2
J. Anderson c Watson b Johnson 0
S. Finn not out 1
Extras (lb-4, w-1, nb-2, b-8) 15
Total (all out, 62.3 overs) 187
Fall of wickets: 1-78 2-82 3-82 4-94 5-98 6-145 7-181 8-186 9-186
Bowling: Hilfenhaus 21-6-53-0 (nb-1), Harris 15-4-59-3 (w-1), Siddle 9-2-25-1 (nb-1), Johnson 17.3-5-38-6.
Australia second innings
S. Watson not out 61
P. Hughes c Collingwood b Finn 12
R. Ponting c Prior b Finn 1
M. Clarke b Tremlett 20
M. Hussey not out 24
Extras (nb-1) 1
Total (for three wickets, 33 overs) 119
Fall of wickets: 1-31 2-34 3-64
To bat: B. Haddin, S. Smith, M. Johnson, R. Harris, P. Siddle, B. Hilfenhaus.
Bowling: Anderson 11-5-25-0, Tremlett 9-2-20-1, Finn 9-1-48-2 (nb-1), Swann 4-0-26-0.