Australian press round on flops as knives come out for Ricky Ponting and Mitchell Johnson

Ricky Ponting’s Australians arrived in Adelaide unable to avoid the vitriol that has been flung their way since conceding 517 for one at the Gabba.

The Australia captain spent the two-hour flight from Brisbane next to an England fan who may have relished the back page of his newspaper. ‘Clueless,’ screamed  Brisbane’s Courier-Mail beneath a picture of a beleaguered Ponting. The derision of his compatriots was not part of his masterplan to regain the urn.

Head-scratcher: Ricky Ponting and his Australian team were left bruised and battered by England

Head-scratcher: Ricky Ponting and his Australian team were left bruised and battered by England

Chief among Australia’s problems ahead of the second Test, starting at the Adelaide Oval on Friday, is the make-up of their attack. And no-one is more problematic than Mitchell Johnson, who is fighting for his place after taking none for 170 at the Gabba. Johnson averages 41 in Ashes cricket after that horror show and concedes 4.02 runs per over against England - more than against any other Test nation.

But with many of the Australian newspapers calling for his head, it was left to coach Tim Nielsen to defend his bowler.

Backlash: The knives are out for the Aussies in the national press

Backlash: The knives are out for the Aussies in the national press

‘He’s taken 160 Test wickets,’ said Nielsen. ‘He’s good at this game. Can he bounce back? Very much so. Throughout his career he’s had ups and downs, just like any other cricketer.

‘He didn’t bowl as well as he would have liked in Brisbane, and it’s our job over the next two days to make sure Mitchell’s relaxed and thinking clearly about the things that have worked for him.’

Whether Johnson, 29, is given a second chance is another matter. If he has been made the scapegoat for Australia’s failure to take more than a single wicket in an England second innings lasting 152 overs, then it is because he is often a barometer of his side’s success.

The paceman averages a world class 25 with the ball when Australia win, costing a respectable 3.03 runs an over. But when they lose, the average rises to 36 and the economy rate to 3.53.

Asked whether Johnson would start now that fellow quicks Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris have been called up, Nielsen replied: ‘We’ve got five fast bowlers. We want to look at the conditions. The next couple of days’ bowling for all five bowlers will play a big part in which three get the nod.’

Meanwhile, ex-captain Ian Chappell called for Johnson to be dropped.

Having a stinker: Mitchell Johnson has been singled out for criticism following awful figures of 170-0

Having a stinker: Mitchell Johnson has been singled out for criticism following awful figures of 170-0

Aussies go AWOL

The Gabba has a capacity of 42,000 and, although the Barmy Army rocked up in full voice, the home support flagged.

Day One .... 35,389
Day Two .... 34,045
Day Three .... 34,615
Day Four .... 21,677
Day Five ....7,088

‘I’m not sure you can take him to Adelaide with no confidence, so that’s one change they’ve got to make,’ he said. It is thought unlikely Australia will pick Johnson and Bollinger - both left-armers - in the same side, because they are wary of creating rough outside the righthander’s off-stump for Graeme Swann to exploit.

But they may consider a doublechange: Bollinger and Harris in for Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus, who took one wicket in Brisbane.

Two of the last three Tests here have been stalemates, but the new groundsman Damian Hough expects the pitch to ‘crack and open up for the spinners’.

Whatever formula Australia go for, they must erase the memories of the Gabba.

‘The scoreboard says it was a draw,’ said Nielsen. ‘We busted our backsides trying to take wickets, but now we turn up on Friday and start again.’ 


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