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Peter English in Melbourne
December 30, 2007
Mitchell Johnson ended a Test he was not sure he would play in with an enhanced reputation and the hope India's batsmen would see him as a threat for the rest of the series. A mid-match chat with Troy Cooley, Australia's bowling coach, helped Johnson achieve more swing in the second innings and his burst of three wickets finished the game late on the fourth day.
However, Johnson had to survive a close battle to appear on Boxing Day after the push for Shaun Tait grew when he replaced the left-armer for the Chappell-Hadlee Series. Johnson's variety and tight control, which was a feature of the home fast bowlers in Melbourne, were crucial elements as India were dismissed for 196 and 161.
"There was a bit of concern there [about my spot]," he said after the team had completed a recovery session at a Melbourne beach. "It took me by surprise, being dropped from the one-day squad."
While Australia's spin options are limited, there is strength in the fast-bowling stocks and the back-up is led by Tait, who remained in the 12-man squad for the second Test. There will be no way in for Tait in Sydney after the 337-run win in Melbourne, but Johnson is still not feeling secure about his place. After 11 wickets in three Tests he has made a promising start and is safe for a couple of games at least. Johnson delivered an immaculate line outside off stump at the MCG, which was the plan to frustrate the Indians into rash shots, and he gave away less than two runs an over.
In the first innings he opened with five maidens to Rahul Dravid and after not picking up any wickets or much swing he talked to Cooley. The upshot was a straighter wrist position on day four and some dramatic movement. MS Dhoni and Anil Kumble were caught behind in the same over, setting up a speedy finish, and Johnson was proud to seal the win by bowling RP Singh.
"Getting three wickets was a bit of a relief," he said. "In the first innings I didn't have any luck, so it was good to get those wickets at the end and to get it reversing was a good sign."
Fourteen victims in the one-day series in India helped demystify the opposition and he was not intimidated bowling to Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly. "Hopefully the Indians are thinking about me," he said. "I just tried to back myself and not think about who was at the other end. Once you start to think about who you are bowling to and how good they are you might struggle a bit."
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