Australia's bowling plans have borne dividends against England all -summer and so it proved again here yesterday, in the 15.1 overs possible before persistent rain forced the third NatWest Series match to be abandoned.
Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle were the principle perpetrators in the Tests, but Mitchell Johnson has proved more than able at continuing their good work in the 50-over series which Australia lead 1-0 with two to play. Johnson, troubled and inconsistent against England in the past, looks relaxed and confident in the shorter format where the limit on overs perhaps gives him that crucial focus. He has bowled quick, in the 90s-mph, his menace keeping England's batsmen pinned firmly on the back foot. He kept Kevin Pietersen tethered after Michael Clarke had put England in to bat after winning the toss.
Pietersen struck the first ball he faced, from Clint McKay for four, but thereafter added just two runs in 16 balls as Johnson forced him to prioritise survival over runs - a contest Johnson won after beating him for pace with a short ball Pietersen spooned to George Bailey at square-leg.
With Pietersen being tall, and therefore unable to avoid the bouncer as easily as shorter batsmen, it is surprising Australia have not targeted him more often, given the tangle he got into playing the short ball here. It is possible his focus had been disturbed after running out Michael Carberry in the first over. He made a headlong lurch down the pitch for a quick single (a leg bye that fell to short-leg) oblivious to Carberry's rejection until it was too late. His mentoring role for the new players in the side clearly extends only so far. Johnson's pace and knucklecrushing bouncer also troubled Jonathan Trott, who had fallen to a brutal throat ball from him in the last match at Old Trafford.
Yesterday, Johnson's plan against him was simple - bang-in balls to scramble his footwork and make him reluctant to push forward and then pitch-up balls to catch him lbw. The simple conceit almost worked, twice, and without the Umpire Review System he would have had another scalp. Trott reviewed the first decision, which umpire Michael Gough had given out, and was reprieved when Hawk-Eye showed the ball to have pitched just outside the line of off-stump. Trott was on 13 at the time and on 20 when Gough gave him not out after Johnson thudded another into his pads.
Height was the issue this time and keeper Matthew Wade persuaded Clarke to call for the review after suggesting the ball had struck a bent front leg. In fact, Trott had played it fairly upright and Hawk-Eye showed the ball to be just clipping the top of the bails, so -staying with umpire's call, which was not out. Trott is a pragmatic player and he worked out a way of getting Johnson away to the on side, his two bottom-handed shovels twice finding the boundary. Indeed by the time rain stopped play at 3.35pm, England had struck just four fours from 91 balls.
Joe Root survived the onslaught but, just as he thought he might prosper, with the introduction of two spinners - a Clarke ploy to hasten his team to 20 overs (the minimum requirement for a game) - he checked his shot against Adam Voges' part-time off-spin to give him a soft catch. It was his second soft dismissal of the series, both suggestive of a tired mind.
But while Ian Bell and Alastair Cook are deemed to need a rest, in preparation for this winter's Ashes, Root, who has played even more international cricket than either since the beginning of the year, carries on, his 22-year-old mind and body obviously deemed to be beyond fatigue.