Cow Corner

Is there any way for England to save The Ashes?

Mitchell Johnson celebrates yet another five-for in the 2013-14 Ashes

Already 2-0 up in the series and with Mitchell Johnson running riot, Australia could hardly be charged with more confidence as they look to rout a dispirited England in the third Ashes Test and recapture the coveted urn.

In a remarkable turnaround, Australia have transformed themselves in a few short months from plucky 3-0 losers in England into an aggressive outfit which has dominated every aspect of play in crushing victories in Brisbane and Adelaide.


Starting on Friday, they have a chance to drive home their advantage and win the tiny terracotta symbol of Anglo-Australian sporting rivalry for the first time since Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath signed off with a 5-0 sweep in 2007.

Johnson's personal transformation has been even more spectacular than that of his team, and the once-ridiculed paceman will now have a chance to terrorise England at his adopted home ground.

It's a ground where, even in the dark days of the 2010-11 series, Johnson bowled his country to victory: his spell of six wickets for 38 runs turned the match and levelled the series for the hosts in that game, and the 32-year-old clearly can't wait to get back there.

"It should be fast and bouncy and that excites me a lot, excites all our fast bowlers," said Johnson, who has taken 36 wickets in five Tests at an average of 19.66 at the WACA.

"We're familiar with these conditions and we know where to bowl ... if you can bowl a ball accurately at someone's (helmet) grill, I don't care who you are, you are going to feel intimidated, especially on a wicket like Perth."


England could hardly have chosen a worse arena to find themselves with their backs to the wall than the WACA, where they have won only one Test in the last 12 - and that came back in 1978.

Blinding sunlight and sweltering heat look assured for the five-day match, and while the WACA deck is no longer as quick as it once was, it can still be an intimidating place to face genuine pace bowling of the sort Johnson has been producing.

Even when the afternoon breeze blows up from Fremantle - the famous "Freo Doctor" - the relief it brings from the blast furnace temperatures will be tempered in English minds by the knowledge that it has in the past enabled Johnson to swing the ball to devastating effect.

But England are refusing to be downhearted.


"One thing I do know about this team is that when we get to this place we come out fighting. You have no option," wicketkeeper Matt Prior said.

"You can sit there and sulk, moan, whinge and make excuses - but you will just get beaten. You have to get rid of all that, and fight."

Australia, a shambolic team at the start of the year who have discovered unity in victory at home, have an unchanged squad for the third Test in a row as they look to give captain Michael Clarke something to cheer about in his 100th Test.

England have never before come from 2-0 down to win an Ashes series and will definitely make changes as they look to stem their own demise and Australia's rise.

One of the two spinners, Graeme Swann and Mony Panesar, will probably give way to bowling all-rounder Tim Bresnan, but England need huge improvements in all areas - even down to captain Alastair Cook's effectiveness in the toss of the coin.

England won the toss in all three of their victories on home soil earlier this year but lost it in the two drawn matches.

Clarke has won both tosses in the Australia-hosted series with his team going on to win by 381 runs in Brisbane and 218 runs in Adelaide, with the toss in Adelaide in particular seemingly crucial.

A slice of luck would certainly help England, who have invariably been at their best when frontrunners.

But as every sportsperson since South African golfer Gary Player will attest, luck is best improved through hard work.

One of the more disappointing aspects of England's misery so far has their poor fielding, with three dropped catches costing them 286 runs in Adelaide.

And even if Cook did manage to call correctly on Friday morning and put his side into bat, England have not managed the sort of 400-plus total they would need to accumulate in any of their matches against Australia this year.

The disappointing batting, not least a rash of ill-judged hook shots, has called into question the hunger and desire of the England top order.

"Sometimes when you haven't been playing well that's one thing you start looking at, whether we do have that," Cook, who will also be playing his 100th Test, admitted after the Adelaide match.

"I can only say from speaking to the guys and watching them, how much this is hurting, that we do. Only the guys will know that inside themselves. I honestly believe that we've got that."

Reuters / Eurosport