‘I think Mitchell Johnson is a tad fragile and England can prey on that’, says Stephen Harmison

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“If he can’t get them out, he’s going to knock them out”

Former England pace bowler Stephen Harmison has announced that the national team stand a great chance of limiting Australia left-arm pace bowler Mitchell Johnson’s effectiveness throughout the upcoming Ashes series if they “prey” on his “fragile” state.

However, Harmison noted that if England don’t attack “Johnson from ball one”, he will retaliate by trying to “knock them out”.

“Their batting is fragile – I don’t think it is that strong – and they are going on about Mitchell Johnson bowling fast, bowling at 90mph and bowling at people’s rib cages and heads,” Harmison said. “If he can’t get them out, he’s going to knock them out. As a former fast bowler who had that in his armoury, pace isn’t everything because the quicker you bowl, the further it goes sometimes.

“I think England will look to dominate Mitchell Johnson from ball one. As soon as he comes on to bowl, I can see someone like Kevin Pietersen making a bee-line for him. It wouldn’t surprise me if he runs down the wicket to him and really gets right in Mitchell Johnson’s ear.

“I think Mitchell Johnson is a tad fragile and England can prey on that. Mitchell Johnson will either win the series for Australia or he will not be playing in the second or third Test match, because I think England will go hard at him.”

Harmison also laughed at Australia captain Michael Clarke’s claims of his English counterpart Alastair Cook providing him with a list of all the players that will be included in England’s Ashes squad for the first Test in Brisbane.

“It gets funnier every time I see it,” Harmison said. “I just thought that he should have been in a room full of 250 corporate people and he was having an after-dinner speech; it wasn’t something, I think, that he thought would go all over the world.

“To be fair, I’d like Michael Clarke to keep talking. Let’s not get away from the fact that he is a fantastic captain and he’s a fantastic cricketer, but he’s the only man who stays in the way of England winning the Ashes and really humiliating this Australian team.

“I don’t know if he’s trying to be funny or clever. I don’t think Alastair Cook knows his team, his bowling line-up. England went over there with two real head-aches on the selection front.

“First of all I think they stumbled across Michael Carberry because if Alastair Cook was fit for the opening warm-up game in Perth, I’m not sure Carberry would have played because I think England would have been looking at the time at Root and Cook.

“The three seam bowlers [in contention for the first Test] are all similar, so wheteher you play Rankin, Finn or Tremlett, they are all going to cause similar problems to the Australian batsmen and the one thing that Clarke [struggles with] – if he has got any weakness in his technique – is the bouncing ball.”

Harmison added that Clarke needs to “stop listening to Shane Warne” as the former spin king is having a very bad influence on him.

“This has got to be Michael Clarke’s last rant and he’s got to stop listening to Shane Warne, because I don’t think he’s very good for him at this moment in time,” Harmison said. “As much as Shane Warne was the greatest player ever to play the game, he played in an era where he had a good team around him – they could talk the talk as well as walk the walk.

“I’m not sure Clarke has got the team to back that up and because of that he needs to concentrate on his game because he’s the only one who is standing in the way of maybe Australia really being humiliated and England coming away with a 3-0, 4-0 or maybe even possibly a 5-0 win.”

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