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England's mantra must be: 'Thou shalt not hook'

December 10, 2013 09:57 IST

England's mantra must be: 'Thou shalt not hook'



England captain Alastair Cook has called on his players to search their souls for hidden resolve and dig themselves out of the deepest of Ashes holes, but mining reserves of character may not be enough to counter Mitchell Johnson on Perth's WACA pitch.

-Ashes Preview: Australia relishing prospect of renewed pace assault at WACA

Bullied by the left-arm seamer in the opening defeat in Brisbane, England had 10 days to prepare for Johnson before the second Test in Adelaide.

However, like schoolchildren scared stiff on exam day, the tourists looked as if they had learned nothing at all.

Johnson finished with eight wickets to earn his second man-of-the-match award of the series, his 7-40 in the first innings routing England for 172 and putting the match beyond their reach.

Trailing 2-0 with three Tests left, England have only three days to dust themselves off before facing Johnson again on his favourite wicket in Perth, where the combination of bounce and a dependable afternoon sea-breeze can conjure a vicious cocktail of pace and swing.

Image: England captain Alastair Cook lines up with his team after losing the Second Ashes Test
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images


England's mantra must be: 'Thou shalt not hook'

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After Adelaide, one lesson should be drilled into the England batsmen's psyches and tattooed on the backs of their hands: "Thou shalt not hook."

Cook could do little to avoid losing his first innings wicket when he was bowled by a searing Johnson delivery of extreme pace, but he threw away his second wicket by hooking the Queenslander straight to Ryan Harris.

That set the tone for his side's 218-run defeat, as one after another of his players gave up their wickets pulling, hooking or slogging to leg-side traps rather than getting in behind the short stuff to block and drive Australia's seamers.

"We haven't batted very well and when you do that people start looking at shot selection and execution of shots," Cook said.

"We've probably gone away from what we've done. (But) the lower order aren't there to score the big runs. It's the top seven who score runs.

"(Johnson) has bowled quickly and he's bowled well. But we've got to turn it round quickly.

"I think anyone lower down the order, obviously it's tough for them against a guy who's bowling so quick and they're working very hard in the nets and that's all we can do.

"We need to work on our games, we need to work on the technique needed to survive against quick bowling."

Image: Joe Root of England plays a pull shot as George Bailey of Australia ducks
Photographs: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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England's mantra must be: 'Thou shalt not hook'

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Joe Root, who scored 87 in the second innings and showed great courage under fire, showed the way as he patiently blocked, ducked and shouldered arms against Johnson and his fellow quicks.

His team mates would do well to watch a replay of the four-and-a-half hour knock from the 22-year-old Yorkshireman, who smiled sweetly in response to the bouncers, baleful stares and sledging from Johnson.

While urging his players to keep their heads in Perth, Cook will also ask them to block out the memory of England's appalling record at the WACA, where they have lost their last six matches and won only once, back in 1978.

"What's gone on in the past is of no relevance whatsoever," said Cook. "We have to go there as this side in 2013 and deliver something very special or we're not going to do what we've come to do."

Their last trip to the WACA in 2010-11 was memorable for all the wrong reasons, as Johnson threw off a wretched run of form to take 9-82 for the Test in a man-of-the-match performance and drive Australia to a 267-run win that tied the series 1-1.

While England ultimately trounced Australia in Melbourne and Sydney to win the series, at 2-0 down this time around there would be no coming back from another Johnson masterclass in Perth.

Image: Joe Root
Photographs: Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

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