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RELATIONS between the two Ashes combatants have not been great in this series, but there is some sympathy for England’s plight from the Australian with the closest view of the destruction wreaked by paceman Mitchell Johnson.
George Bailey has been fielding in close at short leg and has had a front-row seat as Johnson, repeatedly bowling at more than 150km/h, has shaken up England’s batsmen, in particular a nervous middle order and tail.
The Tasmanian admitted yesterday he particularly felt for England No. 11 Monty Panesar, who was stoic in fronting up to a Johnson-led barrage that made a mess of England’s first innings in Adelaide.
As balls flew past Panesar’s head — with one thunderbolt thudding into his helmet — Bailey could not help but offer a helping hand.
“He was getting plenty of advice from his partners but I was just trying to get him to get his elbow out of the way, for starters,” Bailey said.
“He was muttering away to himself to watch the ball.
“It was not pretty.”
Australia’s approach towards bowling to the England lower order has been uncompromising.
The latest to cop a painful blow in the final hour of the match was James Anderson — persona non grata with the Australians — and Bailey said he could tell from his fielding position near the bat just how apprehensive England’s less capable batsmen were.
“It’s uncomfortable, there is no doubt about that,” Bailey said.
“I try to put myself in their shoes with some of these fields. You’ve got to make some tough decisions: if you’re going to wear a couple; if you’re going to play; and if you are going to play, where can you score? And do you bat to try and survive? You start to see that a little bit.”
It’s a tactic that Australia does not apologise for, and which will only continue on the harder, faster pitch in Perth.
“That’s been our team plan — I don’t think we’re going to go away from it,” said bowling coach Craig McDermott.
“There is not too many tailenders around the place who bat below seven that enjoy playing a lot of balls around their helmet. So be it.”
England can expect even more short stuff at the WACA Ground, with Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle tipped to revert to the diet of deliveries that left such a bad taste in the mouths of England’s batsmen at the Gabba.
Not that what they achieved by opting for a more stump-to-stump route on a supposedly lifeless pitch at the Adelaide Oval didn’t do the trick.
“I think that probably surprised them, from what they felt was in the wicket and what Mitch and even Ryano were able to get out of the wicket,” Bailey said.
“I think that probably shocked them a bit. One of the pleasing things was it was a little bit different. Knowing that the short stuff can ruffle them a little bit ... it’s starting to play on their minds because he can go both ways.”