Cricket-England batsmen backing off is a ploy, says Johnson


SYDNEY, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Mitchell Johnson believes England's batsmen repeatedly pulling away just before the ball is delivered during the Ashes series is a deliberate ruse to unsettle Australia's pace bowlers.

Johnson, whose pace bowling has helped Australia to a 4-0 lead in the series, got into a row with Kevin Pietersen in the fourth test over the practise, slinging the ball towards the England batsman before exchanging heated words.

"The only thing I regret is throwing the ball," Johnson told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

"I think that was probably a little bit inappropriate but the rest of it was fine.

"I just let (Pietersen) know that he needed to stop doing it. The sight screens are big enough, he should be watching the game."

Batsmen do have the right to stand away from the wicket before a ball is bowled if they are distracted by movement in the crowd.

"That's how they play the game and have always played the game since I've been playing," Johnson said.

"It's always happened so I don't think they'll change ... it definitely is frustrating when it happens all the time but that's part of the game, it's part of their tactics."

The relationship between the two sides over nine tests last year has sometimes been testy and Australia captain Michael Clarke was fined after the Brisbane match for suggesting James Anderson was about to suffer a broken limb.

The fifth test starts at the SCG on Friday. (Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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