Mitchell Johnson has accused England’s batsmen of deliberately backing away from the stumps after taking their stance as a way to unsettle Australia’s pacemen, who have dominated the Ashes.
Johnson acknowledge that it’s not uncommon for batsmen to step away from the crease when distracted by movement in the crowd behind the bowler’s arm, but says England appears to be doing it repeatedly for tactical reasons.
“That’s how they play the game and have always played the game,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “I don’t think they’ll change. It definitely is frustrating when it happens all the time, but it’s part of their tactics.”
The issue came to a head during the Melbourne test when Kevin Pietersen walked away from the crease near the end of Johnson’s run-up, prompting Johnson to throw the ball in the Englishman’s direction, and then get into a sharp exchange of words.
“The only thing I regret is throwing the ball,” Johnson said of the Pietersen incident. “That was probably a little bit inappropriate but the rest of it was fine. I just let him know that he needed to stop doing it. I won’t back down if it happens again.”
Johnson, who has taken 31 wickets in the series which Australia leads 4-0, said he expects England to continue to employ the tactic in the fifth test at the Sydney Cricket Ground beginning Friday.
England, meanwhile, held only fielding practice on Wednesday at the SCG, allowing the players a sleep-in on New Year’s morning and canceling a session in the nets. Both teams were later guests of Prime Minister Tony Abbott at Kirribilli House on Sydney Harbour.
Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said England appeared to in need of some fielding work.
“I don’t think they’re in a great place to be perfectly honest,” said Haddin. “You could probably tell a bit of that in their fielding the other day. That’s the first thing to go when you’re struggling a bit.
“The batting and bowling, it’s an individual thing. But the team stuff looked like it was breaking a bit.”
Australia could field the same XI in Sydney which has started the previous four tests, becoming only the fourth international team to do so five times in a five-test series.
Only England against Australia in 1884-85, South Africa against England in 1905-06 and the West Indies against Australia in 1991 were able to retain the same starting line-up for that long.