Former Australian Test cricketers have termed struggling fast bowler Mitchell Johnson's second Ashes Test performance as "disgraceful" even as his captain Ricky Ponting stood firmly behind him.
Johnson returned with unflattering figures of 3-200 in the 115-run second Test defeat at Lord's and former cricketers said a repeat would gift England the easiest of victories in the remaining three matches.
Former left-armer Mike Whitney said Johnson should make way for Stuart Clark if he could not regain control or confidence during the three-day tour game in Northampton starting on Friday.
"I've never seen someone go from being absolutely amazing in South Africa to bowling like Johnson at Lord's where he put the ball half a metre wide of return crease," Whitney said.
"I think his low-arm action is a big problem. If you're bowling from over the top like a Glenn McGrath, the only thing that will vary is your length.
"He's also down on confidence and when you start going everywhere, you think to yourself, 'Where will this next one go?'. There's pressure on him to perform in Northampton. If he can't, I can't see how Ricky can pick him for Edgbaston," Whitney was quoted as saying by Daily Telegraph.
Former fast bowler Geoff Lawson went further by asking: "Why isn't Doug Bollinger over there as a back-up left-armer? "He (Johnson) has to sort out his head before he worries about his action," Lawson said.
"Guys like Terry Alderman came back from surgery and bowled with a low arm, but his wrist was always up. Mitch's wrist is at 45 degrees and should be at 90 degrees . . . I think he's in severe danger now of missing out on Edgbaston," Lawson said.
But Ponting is determined to persist with Johnson and is mindful not to load him up with too much information midway through the crunch tour.
"What you don't want to do with youngish blokes is fill their heads full of too much and have him thinking of too many things all the time," said Ponting.
"I've been there as a batter, and the more information sometimes you can get into your head the harder it makes everything. We have to be careful of the way we manage him over the next little bit."
Ponting dismissed suggestions Johnson would be dropped for the third Test at Edgbaston next week.
"Of course I can see him playing. With him, it was only a couple of games ago that he was bowling as well as anyone going around.
"There was a lot of talk about Johnson arriving here and everyone wanting to see him bowl and see him bat. That was only a couple of weeks ago. It's not as if he's lost everything he's ever had."