Cricket Expert & Columnist
Ashes 2013/14: Trott and Johnson tussle could be key, says Athers
Jonathan Trott's duel with Mitchell Johnson is shaping up nicely for the Ashes, says Mike Atherton.
Last Updated: 12/09/13 11:56am
England number three Trott gloved Johnson behind first ball in the second ODI at Old Trafford and was struck on the helmet in the third NatWest Series clash at Edgbaston as the tourists' attack continued to attack him with the short ball.
Looking ahead to the 2013/14 Ashes - when England will defend the urn after retaining it with a 3-0 victory this summer - former England captain Atherton said the manner of Australia's tactics against Trott may force the Warwickshire batsman into a re-think.
"This is the first time, really, that Jonathan Trott will have had to think about his own game," said Atherton. "Since 2009 he has had a magnificent run, averaging 50 in Tests and thereabouts in one-day games.
"But virtually every batsman goes through a phase where the bowlers just start to work you out and target you a little bit and I would say this is the first time that it has happened to Trott. He's a very fine player but he may well be thinking 'have they worked me out a little bit'.
"Johnson is fast - he's bowling at 90mph plus; seeing a fast bowler rushing in is still one of the great sights in the game. The difference between that and the majority of seamers who bowl at around 84mph is very noticeable.
"He's fresh as well, because he hasn't played the Test series, which is a big advantage, and we think that he's probably favourite to start the Ashes in Brisbane because of the injury problems that Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and maybe Ryan Harris have. So there's a wider context to the little battle we're seeing between Johnson and Trott."
Johnson has taken 35 wickets in nine Ashes Tests - the highlight coming at Perth in 2010 when he demolished England by claiming 6-38 - but he was overlooked for the 2013 series having fallen behind James Faulkner, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris in the pecking order.
However, Atherton said that on the basis of the NatWest Series so far the left-armer appears to be a more consistent threat after spending time reworking his slingy action.
"Mitchell Johnson is playing a game where he bowls 10 overs and has a couple of days off before bowling 10 overs again," said Atherton.
"But Test cricket is far more physical; he'll have to come back for two or three spells in a five-day game, so will his action - one that is a slightly new and improved model - hold up in the third session on a hot day in Brisbane? From what we've seen on the limited evidence so far he's in fantastic shape.
"The one time we've seen Trott look really uncomfortable was at the Wanderers when Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn went at him on a fast pitch.
"There aren't that many bouncy, quick pitches around and there aren't that many bowlers of the quality of Morkel, Steyn or Johnson.
"I don't know if Trott has a problem against Johnson per se but the fact is that Johnson is quick and we saw it in the Test series where the majority of Australia's bowlers were around 84mph mark that they started to bowl a bit shorter from Lord's onwards.
"It's a dual attack at Trott - the short ball, which they feel gets him going across his crease, and then it's the lbw decision."
Atherton's fellow Sky Cricket pundit Nasser Hussain feels that if there is a weakness, it has its roots in the fundamentals of Trott's technique.
"Trott has a trigger movement where he walks at the bowler - I don't think anyone else in world cricket has it," he explained. "A fast bowler like Michael Holding wouldn't let you do that to him and at the moment neither will Johnson.
"Like Kevin Pietersen, Trott is a lad brought up in South Africa who likes to get on the front foot and he can be a little bit late on the short ball.
"It's a difficult one to change as well - it's not like getting out outside the stump, where the solution is to just leave the ball and let them bowl to you and you go back into your bubble.
"When your whole trigger movement is to walk at the bowler and they are still going to bowl short, you can't suddenly say 'I've played my whole career with this trigger movement but I'm going to some bouncy pitches in Australia where they are going to pepper me, so I'm going to revert to back and across'. That just doesn't happen."