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The Shane Watson ploy that changed the course of the 13/14 Ashes

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Mitchell Johnson, recalling his performance in the 2013/14 Ashes, shared an anecdote from the first Test of the series when Shane Watson‘s idea helped him dismiss Michael Carberry, which triggered an England collapse.

England came into the series buoyant, holding the urn after a 3-0 win back home months previously. After bowling the hosts out for 295 in the first innings of the first Test at the Gabba, courtesy a six-for from Stuart Broad, the tourists’ innings was beginning to take shape after a jittery start, with Michael Carberry holding firm at one end. At 87-3 on the second day, and even with the likes of Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen back in the hut, the visitors were hoping to cut down on Australia’s lead and build a match-defining platform.

But Johnson switched to bowling round the wicket on Watson and captain Michael Clarke’s suggestion and forced Carberry, who was going strong at 40, to nick one to Watson at first slip. The wicket triggered an England collapse of epic proportions as they slid from 87-3 to 91-8 within 24 deliveries, eventually getting bowled out for 136.

“I was bowling to Carberry at Brisbane in that first Test,” Johnson recalled while speaking on Lessons Learnt with the Greats podcast. “I think it might have been first innings. And he was digging in, I think I was bowling over the wicket and I was bowling a really good line and length. And you came up and said, ‘Go around the wicket and just bowl short at him, and get a few to go across him and maybe we might get an edge.’

“And I sort of went, ‘Nah, I’m going pretty well here. We’re dotting it up.’ And you left it I think, I don’t know if you said ‘you’re there to intimidate’ or whatever. I think I bowled one more ball, and you must’ve said something to Pup [Michael Clarke] and he came up and said, ‘Go around the wicket.’ And I said, ‘Alright, no worries.’ And literally it was in three or four balls that we nicked him off and you got the catch.

“I think it was a great decision from you guys to see that because I got caught up in bowling dot balls, but that wasn’t my job. It’s nice to bowl dot balls, but that wasn’t my job to bowl outside off stump. I needed them to play, I needed them to jump around a bit, I needed them to feel uncomfortable and that was a perfect example of some good leadership.”

Australia went on win the match by 381 runs and ultimately the five-match series 5-0, with Johnson, who was named the Player of the Series, picking a total of 37 wickets at 13.97.

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