Johnson cutting a forlorn figure as struggles continue

Many feared an easy home victory as England started out on their second innings epic but it was not to be. Matt Reeder looks back on the fourth day of the Test and the failure of Australia's bowlers.

Shane Watson looked back on the disappointment of England's domination with the bat and insisted all of the Australian bowlers should be blamed.

The hosts started with a 202-run lead as play resumed on Sunday but by stumps Ricky Ponting's men were 88 runs behind thanks to brilliant knocks by Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott.

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Mitchell Johnson struggled with his line and Ben Hilfenhaus was unthreatening for long periods, while Peter Siddle could not build on his impressive six-wicket return in the first innings.

But it was Johnson who cut the more forlorn figure of the day as he continued to struggle in this opening Test match of the Ashes series.

A bowler who had promised pre-Test to rough up the England captain by targetting him with fast bouncers remained wicketless and runless after four days at the Gabba – and he gave Strauss a life when dropping a chance midway through the morning session, pictured right.

The man who faced ridicule from English supporters during the torrid series of 2009 was once again in danger of becoming a laughing stock... a figure of fun for the Barmy Army.

Watson, though, was quick to defend his colleague and insisted the blame lay squarely on all Australian shoulders.

"I don't think you can single out Mitchell today," Watson said. "All of us, the bowlers, didn't perform particularly well, me included."

Strauss and Cook could hardly believe their luck as day four of the Test passed by with relative ease for the England batsmen.

Very much up against it at the start of play, the duo had been expected to face a barrage of fierce deliveries from a home team scenting victory.

But Australia never found their line, length or menace and regularly offered up balls to cut, pull and drive.

When Strauss was finally out, stumped off Marcus North's part-time spin, it should have, coupled with the taking of a new ball, made life difficult for England. However, Jonathan Trott joined in the fun and coasted to a half century of his own.

"It came down to sustaining pressure and unfortunately we weren't able to do that," Watson said. "We did it for little periods but weren't able to execute for long enough.

"The English guys batted well, particularly Strauss and Cook, but all of us as a bowling group weren't able to consistently execute to build the pressure that was needed."

The problem has been a feature of Australia's attack since the last Ashes series and is highlighted on flat pitches when the bowlers can't make things happen. "That's something we are continuing to work on as a group," added Watson.

"We know how important it is on flat wickets and there's no doubt that there's going to be a lot of flat wickets throughout this whole summer.

"We have to continue to improve, to make sure we get better at it."

The Brisbane surface was supportive to the fast men for the first two days but had flattened out considerably. Indeed, the only time any attack has looked dangerous since the opening day was when Jimmy Anderson and co threatened on day three.

Anderson, Broad and Finn all looked dangerous in what was a terrific spell which remarkably ended without success as Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin survived to pile on a stand of over 300.

England did actually take the final five wickets they had needed to dismiss Australia for just 31 runs, but it was the stand of 307 between Hussey and Haddin which piled on the pressure and meant they had a first innings lead of 221.

Defeat was staring England squarely in the face and Strauss knew it would need something special to give his side hope of survival.

He and Cook found that something special and with it, England made a real statement.