Kevin Pietersen and his team-mates determined to make life harder for the Australia bowler
Mitchell Johnson is 2/1 favourite with Victor Chandler
to follow up his nine-wicket haul at the WACA by being Australia’s leading bowler in the fourth Ashes Test but Kevin Pietersen has warned England will be better prepared for the paceman in Melbourne.
Pietersen was one of three batsmen who made just nine first-innings runs between them before Johnson’s late inswing proved too much in England’s 267-run defeat in Perth.
But England’s mercurial number four has learned much from that regrettable experience, and promises the tourists will be ready for whatever Johnson can deliver in the Boxing Day Test.
“He took us by surprise, for sure,” Pietersen admitted. “He bowled well, really, really well, and had a good game of cricket – and we’re going to have to prepare ourselves for that swinging ball. We knew he could swing it, but we didn’t realise he would swing it that much.”
Johnson’s nine wickets at the WACA were in stark contrast to his none for 170 – and 19-ball duck, for good measure – in the drawn first Test in Brisbane, after which he was dropped for the second in Adelaide.
“He did some really good work in the week off he had,” added Pietersen. “But we will be a lot better prepared for it here in Melbourne, so we will play him a lot better.”
Australia captain Ricky Ponting noted England’s perceived vulnerability on bouncy surfaces both before and after their defeat on a typically lively WACA surface. Pietersen anticipates the drop-in strip in Melbourne will be pacy too, but will be losing no sleep at that prospect.
“Of course they are going to do it,” he said. “They’ve just had success in Perth on a bouncy wicket, but we’ve had success around the world on bouncy wickets.
“We lost that Test within half an hour, five for 20 – that’s where we lost it. Full, swinging balls knocked over our top order. We didn’t lose it to a bouncy wicket; we lost it to balls that swung that we didn’t prepare ourselves properly for.
“We will be prepared fully for everything come Sunday morning, so I don’t think the wicket will play any different part.”
Ryan Harris also snared nine England victims in the last encounter and is 5/2 to be the top Australia wicket taker at the MCG, with Ben Hilfenhaus 7/2, Peter Siddle 4/1 and Michael Beer 6/1.