Australia has deservedly gone 2-0 up in the Ashes encounter, but could that all change come the third test in Perth?
England have been destroyed by the bowling of Mitchell Johnson, who has not only found his line and length but has put the wind up the England batsmen with his pace and aggression. He has claimed 17 wickets in two tests at just 12.70, with a fast bowling display that has been missing in World cricket for many a year, and that has silenced a barmy army who were quick to target him in previous series.
Johnson however may well have taken that aggression too far and may miss the third test match in Perth after he and England’s Ben Stokes were today both charged under the International Cricket Council’s code of player conduct.
The two players were called to appear before match referee Jeff Crowe and charged under section 2.2.4 of the code that relates to “inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players in the course of play during an international match”.
The hearing was the result of the two clashing shoulders on the fourth afternoon of the recently concluded Adelaide Test. There had been plenty of verbal from Johnson and when Stokes took a single from Johnson’s bowling and the Australian fast bowler stood on the pitch’s edge after his follow through, – as he is entitled to do – and Stokes ran into him. Both players are believed to have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Match referee former New Zealand international Jeff Crowe has thus far given no indication as to when he will announce the result of his deliberation, after speaking with both players.
It would be a major blow for Australia to lose Johnson for the Perth test. He now plays for Western Australia and the fast and bouncy WACA wicket was likely to test an already brittle England batting line up even more than it has been already. Some would say it would not be good for the public to see him rubbed out. Others may say it could be the ideal situation as it may give England a sniff of a victory and will mean that there is still something to be played for when the Boxing day Test in Melbourne, and the Sydney test come around. Cricket Australia will not have banked on their team wrapping up the series in three straight tests and the affect that could have on gate takings in the two main revenue earning tests.
In the 2005 Ashes series Glenn McGrath had a grade 2 tear of the lateral ligament in his ankle after treading on a cricket ball in a practise drill and was ruled out of the second Test an hour before the toss. Australia had won the first test by 239 runs and McGrath had been named man of the match. England bounced back to win the second test in his absence and won the fourth after a draw in the third. A draw in the final test saw England win the series and the Ashes back. That series hinged on that injury, will this on a possible Johnson suspension?
Johnson has been man of the match in the opening two tests, and an Australia without him, England would no doubt believe to be a far more beatable side, than one with, – based on his current form – in it.
If found guilt by Jeff Crowe both players face the possibility of a ban. A level two offence under the code of conduct – carries a maximum penalty of 100 per cent of a player’s match fee and/or a ban of one Test match or two one-day internationals.
If Johnson is banned for one match will his suspension open the door for England? It would be a very tough ask to bounce back and win two tests out of the reminding three but one would have to say that Australia’s loss of Johnson would be greater than England losing Stokes.