Bell throws down gauntlet to Johnson
Ian Bell has challenged the inconsistent Mitchell Johnson to repeat his outstanding performance today in England’s second innings at the WACA.
Johnson returned 6-48, including an inspired spell of 4-7 in five overs, as Australia wrested control of the third Ashes Test in Perth.
The left-arm paceman, who was left out of the second Test after a dismal display in the first, made a spectacular return to form to help dismiss the tourists for 187 - a first-innings deficit of 81.
The hosts built on that to reach 119 for three at stumps - a lead of 200 - thanks principally to opener Shane Watson’s unbeaten 61.
Bell, who struck his third successive half-century of the series, was one of the few batsmen to prosper against Johnson on a day when tempers on both sides were frayed.
Afterwards Bell questioned whether Johnson could match today’s feats in England’s second knock.
“It’s just one innings of bowling. He’s got to back it up second innings,” said Bell, whose 53 occupied 90 balls and contained six fours.
“We concentrate on what we need to do, and they can concentrate on what they need to do.
“It’s disappointing looking back now that we haven’t batted as well as we could have done today.
“But we knew it was going to happen (at some point). In a five-Test series, you’re going to have bad days - and today was a bad day for us.”
Regardless of words exchanged on the field between the sides, Bell was generous enough to praise Johnson for his wonderful bowling.
“Credit to Johnson and Australia - they came back hard, which we knew they would at some point in this series. It’s up to us now to come back tomorrow and to start well tomorrow morning,” he added.
“Credit has to go to Mitch. I thought he swung the ball and had that control. He went at two-an-over through his spell. That’s very good bowling at the highest level. So credit goes to him for doing what he did.”
Bell was sympathetic towards his team-mates who were dismissed early in their individual innings, but gave Australia their dues for fighting back.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “I think when you get in on these wickets that’s when you need to make (them) pay. If you get knocked over early you can sort of understand that.
“I think we were disappointed because all our batting unit is in good form and we would have really liked today to have been a big day for us, but again credit to Australia for coming back today.
“I think they really needed it today and they delivered and that’s fantastic. For us, we’ve got to do the same tomorrow.”
Bell downplayed the notion that Johnson, who had Alastair Cook caught at gully before trapping Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood lbw, got under England’s skin today.
“I didn’t even realise it was all kicking off like that,” admitted Bell.
“We thought there was a bit of banter going on, but I didn’t realise Johnson was quite in our faces as he probably thinks he was.”
In any case, Bell sees it all as par-for-the-course when the urn is at stake - and England are threatening to win it on Australian soil for the first time since 1986-87.
“It’s an Ashes Test match - both teams are desperate to win,” he continued. “We know what our record is like at the WACA - we’re desperate to make a bit of history here as well.
“So the guys are pumped up for that and, like I said, we’ve been playing some good cricket for a while now and certainly since we’ve been in Australia. They guys are desperate to be playing as good cricket or as hard cricket as possible.
“I thought the two umpires did a great job, and nothing spilled over at all. It’s aggressive Ashes cricket, which is what everyone wants to see. I thought it was a fantastic day’s cricket again.
“I guess a few things were going on, but it didn’t feel any different to me to what it has done in the last two Test matches.”
One difference from Brisbane and Adelaide Bell did note was extra movement, which Johnson and Ryan Harris - with three wickets - exploited.
“It generally swung, I think, which as a bit of a difference from this Test match and the other two; it consistently swung for all their bowlers which I think helped them,” he observed.
“But no difference in terms of aggression or anything like that. I think it was exactly the same but the ball moved around in the air a little bit more.”