Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson has a tryst with fate. Will he be able to make the cut for the third Ashes Test beginning on Dec 16th at WACA in Perth? He certainly has earned promising credentials at this ground. Here, he has scalped at least five wickets in all his three Tests, including notching up career best of 8 for 61 against South Africa in 2008-2009.
But if his dismal showing in the last few encounters is anything to go by, he won't be in the running for a spot in the playing XI. After all, he performed extremely poorly in the first Ashes Test, conceding a mammoth 170 runs in what turned out to be an entirely barren spell. He was consequently dropped for the second Test at Adelaide, but with the Aussie side desperate for a win, they have thrown his name into the hat in hopes that he will strike form.
"He's taken an eight-for here so he has to come back into the reckoning considering it's a game we have to win," Ponting told the Australian. "I've always used him as a strike bowler but unfortunately he wasn't able to deliver in Brisbane. He's had a chance to get away and sort things out and he has worked exceptionally hard in Adelaide. Hopefully we'll see some good stuff from him in Perth this week."
Mitchell's fellow pace bowlers - Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus have also been named in the dozen-strong squad for the WACA, but it's likely that one of the four fast men will be given the unsavoury job of carrying the drinks, especially with captain Ricky Ponting's desire to have a specialist spinner on hand. Off-break Michael Beer will be likely candidate to fit the bill and may be asked to bowl in tandem with the leg-spinning allrounder Steven Smith.
Johnson didn't waste his time while being made to sit out the second test. He trained diligently in the nets with bowling coach Trop Cooley while his team-mates succumbed to England's triumphant showing at Adelaide. He has come in for criticism over his faulty delivery stride and his recently-acquired inability to keep a stable seam. But Ponting seemed satisfied with his progress.
Australia has already taken up the services of five pace bowlers in the last two tests, but has failed to elicit consistent performances from any of them. At the end of the second Test, selectors had toyed with the idea of bringing some new faces on board, especially with Trent Copeland, Mark Cameron and Peter George (who made his Test debut in India earlier thsi year) doing well in the domestic season. But full-time selector Greg Chappell feels that the more seasoned men should be availed of at this critical juncture in the series.
One thing that the pace men have going for them is that the WACA pitch is more suited to fast bowling than it is to batting, with the curator predicting a result in four days.
"We're going to aim for a fair bit of grass on top this year," Sutherland told Perth's Sunday Times. "Certainly we want a result and we're confident that we'll have a pitch that will produce a result."