Mitchell Johnson retires November 17, 2015

Five touches of Mitchcraft

A look back at some of Mitchell Johnson's best and fiercest Test spells

The Ashes 2013-14: Mitchell Johnson's greatest series ever © Getty Images

8 for 61, 3 for 98 v South Africa, Perth, 2008
This match will go down in history for South Africa's incredible chase, their 414 the second-highest successful run chase in Test cricket. But it will also be remembered for one of the first truly great spells of Johnson's Test career. On the second evening, Johnson destroyed South Africa with 5 for 2 in 21 deliveries. He swung the ball, then angled it across. He used the bouncer to devastating effect, a weapon that he had at times been too nice to use earlier in his career. Particularly notable was the welcome to Test cricket that debutant JP Duminy will not forget, fending a catch awkwardly towards leg gully, where Brad Haddin ran around to make the take. Johnson finished with 8 for 61 and claimed 11 for the match, and while he was unable to bowl Australia to victory, this match provided one of the first signs of what would come later in Johnson's career.

4 for 25, 4 for 112, 96* v South Africa, Johannesburg, 2009
The back-to-back series against South Africa in 2008-09 showed Johnson's danger, wicket-taking ability, and all-round talent. He broke Graeme Smith's left hand in Sydney and his right hand in Durban, and in the Test in between he was Man of the Match for an outstanding effort with bat and ball. He began with an unbeaten 96 - a century would follow in the third Test of the series - and then was almost unplayable in collecting 4 for 25 from 18.1 overs in the first innings. Notably, he swung the ball consistently, a feature of his game that had been lacking previously. Another four in the second innings and he had given Australia a 1-0 lead in the series.

6 for 38, 3 for 44 v England, Perth, 2010
The 2010-11 Ashes was Australia's nadir in recent years but, in cricket as in life, Perth has always been... different. It was the one Test that Australia won in that campaign and again Johnson was the man who made the WACA pitch talk. Notably, Johnson had only just returned to the side having been dropped at Adelaide Oval, and he responded with a nine-wicket match. The umpire Marais Erasmus was kept busy on the second day as Johnson repeatedly rapped England's right-handers on the pads with his fast inswingers and he finished with 6 for 38, which captain Ricky Ponting described as "one of the all-time great Ashes spells". Alas, it was the sole highlight in an otherwise disappointing series for Johnson.

37 for 517 v England, 2013-14
How can you single out one performance in Johnson's greatest series, really? It would be like a parent having to choose their favourite child. Nine wickets in Brisbane, eight in Adelaide, six in Perth, eight in Melbourne, six in Sydney - Johnson's bowling defined this series. Quite simply, England's batsmen didn't want to face him. They knew the fast bouncers would come, that their bodies would be targeted as well as their stumps. Every time Johnson came on for a new spell, the intensity ramped up, the crowd bayed. If one performance must be chosen ahead of the others, his 7 for 40 in the Adelaide Test gets the nod, given the lack of any sort of assistance in the pitch. It was, after all, ESPNcricinfo's winner of the Test bowling award that year. It was a 10/10 display. But then, so was his whole series.

7 for 68, 5 for 59 v South Africa, Centurion, 2014

As if to prove the Ashes wasn't a one-off, Johnson headed to South Africa shortly afterwards and destroyed one of world cricket's finest batting line-ups. His 12 for 127 in Centurion will go down as his best match bowling, and again won ESPNcricinfo's award for Test bowling. His first dismissal of the match set the tone: Graeme Smith fended a brutal short ball that told the rest of the batting order what was to come. Faf du Plessis had no idea how to handle a 151kph short ball, and the lower-order batsmen, well, they had no hope. South Africa's best batsman, AB de Villiers, made 91 but ironically fell to Johnson's slower ball. Another series was about to belong to Johnson.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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