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September 6, 2009
The last time Mitchell Johnson left Lord's his place in the Australian team was being questioned. He had just produced a horrific display which contributed to England going 1-0 up in the Ashes and his confidence looked shot to pieces. However, the selectors retained faith and slowly his form returned - albeit in a losing Test series - and he has carried that resurgence forward into the one-day contests. On Sunday he walked away from the home of cricket with the Man-of-the-Match award.
Success in coloured clothes doesn't make up for handing back the urn to England, but it helps in the healing process. "I guess in some ways it can," Johnson said. "I guess after the Ashes we wanted to do well this one-day series and we've started off really well. Hopefully if all goes to plan we can notch up a win."
His thumping innings of 43 from 23 balls was the key batting performance of the match, lifting Australia from what was set to be an under-par 220 to a more defendable 249. The display included a couple of powerful pulls, but the pick of his shots was a flick over short fine leg off James Anderson.
"It was great to get a few runs. My average in one-day cricket isn't so great so it was good to get out there and bat with a batter. I felt pretty good about it," Johnson said. "There were a few shots I tried that I've been practising. You're going to have your days and some days you're not, I was just glad to chip in today."
Johnson also collected two middle-order wickets, as England's run chase fell apart, to follow his 3 for 24 in the opening match at The Oval. It hasn't quite been vintage Johnson but he's getting closer to his best. It took him a while to relax on his maiden tour of England after becoming wrapped up in the pre-series media hype and, being such a key player, he was always going to be targeted by the fans. The attention got to him before he told himself stay calm and now he is bantering with the crowd, at times giving as good as he gets, and is answering back in best possible way - by taking wickets.
"I'm enjoying it, I probably took it a little too seriously during the first two Tests then after that I've got involved a little more and tried to be a little cheekier," he said. "I mean you are going to cop a little here and there but you also get a bit of support as well. I've just got to have fun when I'm out there and worry about what we're doing."
In the Test series most of the statistics said Australia were the better team, but England won crucial moments to take the prize. Both sides are evenly matched in the one-day arena, too, but this time it is the visitors who are striking when it matters. Callum Ferguson has made two vital half centuries, while Johnson and Brett Lee have performed with the ball.
"I think we've won the key moments during these first two one-dayers," Johnson said. "It got a bit tight in the first one-dayer and they started off well here with the bat and we pulled them back a bit. There's going to be a lot of confidence in the side. We've got a young squad with a lot of fresh legs. We'll take it game by game, get lots of good starts then see what happens from there."
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