'Perfect timing' for Johnson's Test debut
Andy Bichel has not been put off by Mitchell Johnson's slow start to the domestic season and feels he is in the perfect position to make his Test debut on Thursday. Johnson's chances of being presented with a baggy green improved with the withdrawal of Shaun Tait from the squad with an elbow injury and the only thing missing from his preparation is a useful haul at state level.
Johnson went wicketless in the Pura Cup match against New South Wales last week and has picked up only one victim in the tour game with the Sri Lankans in Brisbane. However, there was no problem with his pace in the second innings this afternoon and Bichel was impressed with his team-mate's credentials.
"He's a left-armer, he gives you those options and we haven't seen a left-arm quick for a long time," he said. "He's at the right age, he's done his apprenticeship and knows the system, it's perfect timing for him. He's ready to go."
Sri Lanka have struggled with the bounce in Brisbane during the tour game and Johnson's height and pace should provide some more discomfort during the Test. Australia will be without Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath for the first time since their retirement and Johnson is an attractive option because he is a left-armer.
"The make-up of the side, with Stuart Clark, Brett Lee and no Warne, you need some variation in the side," Bichel said. "Stuart MacGill will fill the spin-bowling spot but you need some variation in our quicks and Mitchell's the best way to get it."
Farveez Maharoof is pushing for a place in the Sri Lanka side and he helped his claims with 3 for 72 on a day when they struggled to knock over Queensland's lower order. Dilhara Fernando, who is not playing in the match, is Maharoof's main rival for a spot, although the reshuffling to cover Kumar Sangakkara's injury may result in the visitors playing five bowlers.
"I've been bowling well over the last two weeks and it was good to have a day out," Maharoof said. "It won't be easy with Dilhara, Lasith [Malinga] and [Chaminda] Vaas around. I'm still hoping that I'll get a comeback and hope I get a chance to prove myself."
The Sri Lankans' attack made an impression on Bichel as he posted his ninth first-class century with an aggressive 125. "Malinga will expose the older ball in Hobart, but not in Brisbane because he won't get a lot of reverse-swing," he said. "Maharoof bowled really well and Vaas swung the ball beautifully. They stack up pretty well."
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo