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England with big issues before Ashes: Johnson

Former Test paceman says nature of defeat to South Africa speaks volumes ahead of trip Down Under

Mitchell Johnson has declared Australia are a huge chance to reclaim the Ashes from an inconsistent England bearing the scars of their dismal recent Test history.

The Australian Test great also lit the spark ahead of the looming series by branding the recalled Gary Ballance as unfit to fill the No.3 spot in England's batting order.

England were rolled by South African for 133 in a shambolic second innings of the second Test, by an attack Johnson labelled the world's best.

The rout sparked widespread commentary about England's perceived top-order fragility, lack of value for wickets and inability to adapt.

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"It's only one game, but it's the way they got beaten," Johnson said on Wednesday.

"They've got a few issues coming to Australia. Australia are a huge chance.

"They probably haven't got that consistency at the moment; they've changed their team a little bit so they're trying to find the right squad.

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"It's getting close to an Ashes series so you want to try and lock that in, and it's going to be hard for them now because they've just been beaten."

At Trent Bridge, new England skipper Joe Root's men failed to face 100 overs for the first time since 2009.

England have now lost six of their past eight Tests and eight of their past 13 since the start of the Pakistan series a year ago.

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They have just five Tests to turn it around before the Ashes begin at the Gabba in November.

And Johnson felt the Australian squad was in a better place even amid the pay dispute with Cricket Australia.

"Whereas England have Gary Ballance at No.3," he said.

"When you're a No.3 you're meant to be one of the best players in the team, if not the best. I don't think he is.

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"If you're a bowler and you see Gary Ballance at No.3 you actually get a lot of confidence from that, so I think Australia will have a lot of confidence.

"They have got some good batters, Joe Root has been scoring a lot of runs and Alastair Cook is starting to find some form again.

"It'll be a great series but there are some scars there as well."

Ballance will be fighting to return to the side having suffered a broken finger in the second Test, adding another question mark to the make-up of England's top order.