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Ashes: Australia drop fast bowler Mitchell Johnson

Australia v England, second Test
Venue: Adelaide Oval Date: 3-7 December. Match starts 0000 GMT on 3 Dec Coverage: Listen live on Test Match Special on BBC Radio 4 LW and 5 live Sports Extra; text commentary on BBC Sport website and live on Sky Sports 1

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Johnson critical of Aussie fans

By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport in Adelaide

Struggling fast bowler Mitchell Johnson has been dropped from the Australia team to face England in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide on Friday.

Australia's leading active wicket-taker, with 166 in 39 Tests, has paid for his display in the first Test where he returned figures of 0-170.

He is now likely to be replaced by Doug Bollinger or Ryan Harris.

"I was a little out of form in the last Test, so there's a bit of work for me to do," said Johnson.

"It's obviously disappointing but it's not the end of the world," the left-arm bowler added. "We still have a lot of Tests to go in this series and I'm going to be working my way back into this team and hopefully play a big part."

Even if he does not replace Johnson, Harris, who has missed a lot of cricket in the last year with a serious knee injury, could start in place of Ben Hilfenhaus.

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Australia captain Ricky Ponting said: "We're not worried about Ryan's knee at all. If we had any worries he wouldn't be with us.

"Ryan's strengths are that he has played much of his cricket here [in Adelaide], he's probably slightly quicker in the air, he hits the wicket harder than Ben does and probably he's the better reverse swing bowler for later in the game.

"Hilfy's strengths are his ability to swing the new ball, he's a very consistent bowler and bowls in good areas to tie batters down.

"Ben did a terrific job for us in India in conditions that will probably be similar to what the wicket will be like here, particularly over the last couple of days. It makes that decision a pretty difficult one, which is why we need a fair bit of time to think about it."

Ponting made it clear that the door is not closed for Johnson, who was ICC Cricketer of the Year only a year ago and has been Australia's main strike bowler for the past three seasons.

"The selectors felt Mitch was down on a bit of form and down on rhythm - that was probably highlighted in the last game [at the Gabba]. The game of Test match cricket is hard enough as it is without having to try to find those things in the middle of a Test match.

"With a short turnaround as well he now has a bit of time before the [third] Perth Test match to hopefully rediscover some of that rhythm."

England captain Andrew Strauss, who will name his side on Friday morning, played down suggestions that Johnson's flaying by the England batsmen in Brisbane and subsequent omission puts his side at an advantage here.

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He said: "Mitchell has been spearheading their side for a number of years, so it's quite a big call to leave him out.

"But we have to be ready for whoever might take his place and make sure we have plans to place to counteract them. It's not like they're dragging someone from obscurity.

"The theme of our preparation has been to keep our feet on the ground and realise we haven't achieved anything yet - it's 0-0 in this series, and if we do want to achieve something we have to steel ourselves for another five tough days."

Rumours continue to swirl around Adelaide that Yorkshire's Ajmal Shahzad might be a surprise late inclusion in England's XI, possibly in place of Steven Finn.

Shahzad's ability to reverse-swing the ball could be a potent weapon on what is expected to be a classic batsman's Adelaide wicket, and he bowled well against Australia A in Tasmania a fortnight ago.

But England's selections under coach Andy Flower have tended towards the straightforward and predictable, and with Finn taking six wickets in Australia's first innings at the Gabba his exclusion would be out of keeping with the prevailing team set-up.

Strauss said: "Generally, we were happy with the majority of the performances in Brisbane, but we'll see how we go in the morning.

"My experience of international cricket is that a lack of stability is not a good thing. When you're not sure what your best XI is it generally means people are not confident of their place in the side."

Strauss insisted that his team bear no scars from their stunning defeat here four years ago, when a side containing five of the current six front-line batsmen collapsed on the final day to 129 all out to hand Australia victory having declared their first innings at 551-6.

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"What it proved to us is that anything is possible in the game of cricket. Australia sniffed a chance of a victory and took that chance, while we conspired in our own downfall.

"You need to learn from those sort of experiences, but I think we have learned from it. To expect the match to go a similar way this time would be wrong - once you've been through that you make sure you don't go through it again.

"It was obviously a kick in the teeth at the time, but it was a long time ago. A lot of things have moved on since then."

Ponting, meanwhile, said his side will take inspiration from that remarkable win, which laid the groundwork for the 5-0 series whitewash that followed.

"There are some fond memories for a few of the guys who played in that game," he said. "Michael Clarke got a hundred, Mike Hussey got 90. Hopefully some of those good memories will be good signs this week.

"That win was probably the best Test win I've been involved with. It was an amazing game of cricket, from both teams really, but we grabbed the initiative really late in the game, and we were good enough to get over the line."

This is only the second time Australia have gone into the second Test of an Ashes series down under without a lead since England's last series win here in 1986-87.

And Strauss is hoping that the positive mood among England fans after the fight-back in Brisbane, where his side put on that mammoth 517-1 in the second innings, can inspire his team again.

"The support of the Barmy Army was outstanding. They come a long way to support us, and they like nothing more than to see England play well, and obviously that's what we did in the second half of that game.

"There will be plenty more here this week, and if we can give them something to cheer about that can obviously have a slightly demoralising effect on the opposition."



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