Cricket: Unlikely hero emerges at WACA to breathe new life into series

JUST when everyone was talking about Andrew Strauss' team as world-beaters, along came the erratic Mitchell Johnson to remind England's cricketers not to get ahead of themselves.

It has put Australia back in contention in a series which had appeared to be hurtling away from them when they were also dismissed within a day on a bouncy WACA wicket. But did we really think Australia were going to lie down after being thrashed by an innings in Adelaide?

Were we really silly enough to believe Australia would surrender meekly at a venue which has been a fortress for them in the past?

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This Australia might not be a team of legends anymore, but it does still have bundles of pride and feistiness. And pockets of real talent. Johnson epitomises what the Aussies have become in the wake of the greats of the Steve Waugh and Shane Warne era. He is no Glenn McGrath, a pace man who could land the ball on a sixpence time and time again while knocking over wickets with monotonous regularity, but, with his back to the wall, he can deliver brilliance.

So far this third Test he has been immense, top-scoring with the bat in the first innings with 62 and then skittling out England for a meagre 187. It is what Australia have been missing. They can count on Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin to shore up an unreliable batting line-up. But so far they have been without a match-winner. How were they ever going to take 20 wickets to win Test matches? In Perth, Johnson perhaps supplied the answer.

England will not be looking forward to batting again against Johnson on a pitch where the bounce could become uneven as it begins to crack. That is England's real test. Apart from the first day last month when Peter Siddle took his famous hat-trick, England had looked untroubled in this series.

Now they have to demonstrate they also have confidence and composure under pressure. Ashes series are rarely won without a dog fight. That is what Strauss and company are in right now.