Had you have asked me two or three years ago, I would have agreed with the Barmy Army, “he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, that Mitchell Johnson, his bowling is shite…”
Unfortunately, that was the truth, Johnson had seen the end of a golden period of his career where he was at the summit of world cricket. This of course was highlighted by a brilliant individual performance against the touring South African side in 2008/09 which included the infamous spell of 5/2 claiming the scalps of Jacques Kallis, AB De Villiers and JP Duiminy along the way whilst tearing the middle order to shreds late on the second day.
At his worst, Johnson leaks runs with loose pitched and inaccurate spells where he gives you the impression that he wants to bowl as fast as possible, unable to stick to specific plans set for certain batsmen and failing to build and apply pressure. However on the other hand, at his best, Johnson has the partnership breaking ability to take three or four wickets in as many overs, rattling the opposition just as they are getting settled at the crease. Add to this the fact that Johnson can aggressively bolster the tail, adding valuable runs down the order and you have yourself a cricketer with the ‘X-Factor’.
Fortunately for Australia, we have witnessed this amazing game changing ability of Mitchell Johnson in action over the past two Ashes tests where he has blown the English batsmen out of the water and almost singlehandedly changed the complexion of both games in crucial periods where the test was there to be won.
The statistics really do speak for themselves: 4/61, 5/42, 7/40 and 1/73; that’s 17 wickets in 80 overs of bowling at an average of just under 13 runs per wicket with a strike rate of 28 balls per wicket.
Johnson’s success has come through rattling the English batsmen with genuine 150 kilometres per hour (93 miles per hour) heat, dead-eye accuracy with the bouncer and giving his fair share of ‘lip’ along the way. He’s done it all with a menacing swagger which has heightened the intensity of Ashes cricket and got the crowd on their feet, spurring him on even more. This intimidating demeanour has been characterised by the handlebar moustache as the enforcer of the bowling attack similar to the likes of Dennis Lillee and Merv Hughes before him. Once again, Mitchell Johnson has become Australian cricket’s favourite son.
Now, I know that they call Shaun Tait the ‘Wild Thing’ but Mitchell Johnson’s bounce back reminds me of the resurrection of Rick ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn at the end of Major League II. He’s ruthless, he’s throwing down gas, the crowd love it and he’s got his mojo back
Video: TheJdb123ful (YouTube)
You can trace this major improvement in Johnson’s game to when he was dropped from the test side and had to reinvent himself on a return to Sheffield Shield cricket for Western Australia. Here he took the time to adjust his run-up and point of release which has evidently helped him better keep his rhythm allowing a more consistent and accurate line and length which is very noticeable if you look at the straighter and higher release he has employed since his return last summer. This series, Johnson has been able to elevate his game even further by gaining confidence through his man of the match performances which has created consistency and the question now remains as to how long he can keep this hot streak going.
An interesting point discussed by the Channel Nine commentary team during the Adelaide test is the fact without injures to many of Australia’s young fast bowlers including Jackson Bird, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, Johnson probably wouldn’t have been a serious selection contender for the Ashes series. However, now he has made the most of his opportunity and has guided Australia to a 2-0 lead in the series with the fast bowling paradise at the ‘WACA’ in Perth the next test. From all reports, the ‘WACA’ pitch is going to be a fast track perfect for Johnson in the sweltering Western Australian heat that he calls home and his short ball could be a nightmare for the English batsmen. Surely after his last two performances we can expect another special test match from the menacing moustached Johnson who at the moment looks like he could walk around with an AC/DC mix tape playing in the background everywhere he goes.
Video: Jones Haides (YouTube)
Article by Tim Wray (@Wray24)