Stuart Broad and Mitchell Johnson offered contrasting takes on the reasons for England’s batting collapse on day two of the second Ashes Test, but there was no disagreement about Australia’s dominant position at Lord’s.
Having toiled in the field for five sessions as the tourists racked up 566-8 declared, Broad believes England’s top order “didn’t switch on” as they slumped to 30-4.
But Johnson, who wiped out Gary Ballance’s off stump and then dismissed danger man Joe Root for one, hinted that he had reopened some of the scars that brought him 37 wickets in the 2013/14 whitewash.
Wherever the truth lies does not change the match position, with England reaching stumps on 85-4 and facing a fight to avoid the follow-on.
“It’s always a tricky period when you’ve conceded a lot of runs to then go out and bat for 30 overs,” said Broad, who returned 4-83 in the first innings.
“It’s always a big test for you and I think mentally we didn’t switch on for 20 minutes – and lost four wickets.
“We’ll have a few batsmen in that changing room wishing they could face their balls again and play them pretty differently, I think.”
Johnson had England on the run during a fast, imposing spell and clearly took delight in his role after a quiet Test in Cardiff.
Asked if he felt like the bowler who tormented England 18 months ago, he said: “I hope so.
“That’d be nice, to have those scars come back out.
“Nothing’s changed for me. It’s always nice to go out there and perform and to bowl at good pace. The ball’s been swinging over here too and I’ve really enjoyed that.
“When the ball swings at good pace it makes it a little more difficult.”
Johnson also laid down the gauntlet to the opposition batsman, namely not out number six Ben Stokes, to continue their commitment to attacking cricket.
The situation clearly calls for a more conservative approach, but Johnson could not resist raising the challenge.
“We were hoping they would come out and play the aggressive brand they’ve been talking about.
“We hope they come out in the morning and do the same thing,” he said.
“I guess Stokes is a very aggressive player anyway so we’d like to see him play some shots and hopefully get a couple of quick wickets in the morning.
“I can’t decide for them, if they want to play aggressive cricket or if they want to go the other way but we’ve got to focus on what we’re trying to do out there.”
Broad was at least realistic enough to rein in the bravado and accept his team were battling towards a draw at best.
“We’re hoping for blue sky in the morning and our aim is to get up to that follow-on because if we do Australia will have to bat again, and that takes a lot of time out of the game,” he said.
“We finished very strongly for an hour, Cookie and Stokesy applied themselves, played their gameplans really well and showed that if you get stuck in on that wicket there’s not too many troubles to be had.
“There’s no demons in this wicket. We’ve got 16 wickets left in the Test match.
“So I certainly expect a couple of big hundreds in there at some stage.”