Better late than never
Bob Willis says that late swing is the key to Mitchell Johnson's swift change of fortune in the third Ashes Test.
Last Updated: 17/12/10 11:10am
Australia's cracking counter-attack means that this Perth Test is finely balanced going into day three.
After being outplayed in Adelaide, Australia had no option but to come out fighting and the much-criticised Mitchell Johnson did just that.
The left-armer finally found his radar and proved virtually unplayable at times as he followed up his first-day runs with 6-38.
Not only did he bowl in the right area but he got the ball to swing late on a pitch that is noticeably quicker in pace than day one.
Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen fell to particularly fine in-swinging deliveries and this time the tail had little answer to Johnson's aggression.
Perhaps Trott and Pietersen were guilty of getting too far across their stumps early in their innings and maybe England got too involved in the on-going chat on the field, but nothing should detract from Johnson's impressive return to form.
It's surely no coincidence that the guys who play their cricket at the WACA, like Johnson and Mike Hussey, have looked the most comfortable playing in this game so far.
It is sudden shifts of fortune such as Johnson's transformation that makes Test cricket the compelling game it is.
Paul Collingwood could do with a similar resurgence in form with the bat. So long as his poor trot continues, Ian Bell is clearly wasted at number six.
Apart from his stupendous catching and fielding Collingwood is bringing very little to the party at the moment. The tough decision would have been to drop him after Brisbane in order to play another bowler at Adelaide.
England are very reluctant to change - stubborn even - because Collingwood has been part of the inner sanctum of that side for a long while now.
But Bell, who remains in imperious form, simply isn't in the shop window at six. He's in the best form of the life and surely has that first Ashes hundred in him.
But when Matt Prior fails with the bat, he has little option but to chance his arm in order to garner as many runs as possible with the tail rather than play his natural game.
From the outside swapping Bell and Collingwood in the batting order would seem the simple change to make in the short-term but I'm not sure that the England management are comfortable with two stroke-players - Pietersen and Bell - going in next to one another.
As Australia's second innings unfolded it became clear that England's seamers are still struggling to find the right length to bowl in this pitch.
Instead they've fallen into a familiar trap of banging the ball in too short, too often after seeing it carry through to Matt Prior above shoulder height.
This has played into the hands of Australia, who have gone in all guns blazing with the bat second time around; those batsmen out of form weren't going to die wondering.
With Shane Watson and Hussey still at the crease and looking to play positively against Graeme Swann, Australia - 200 runs ahead - now have a strong foothold in this Test.
But they'll also be only too well aware that it's almost two years ago to the day since South Africa racked up 414-4 in Perth to clinch a famous victory.
All is certainly not lost for England yet by any means.