World Cup 2015: Australia March 16, 2015

Johnson rides in Starc slipstream

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Mitchell Johnson - "My bowling, I felt like it really clicked coming into the start of the real stuff now. I feel like I'm one of those bowlers that the more I bowl the better I feel with rhythm" © AFP

One of the casualties of Australia's unduly disjointed World Cup schedule was Mitchell Johnson. Save for a ball that thudded into the arm of Brendon McCullum, his afternoon at Eden Park looked like the first net session of a new summer, an all-scrambled bowling radar and batting rhythm - he also made a duck.

Having effectively two weeks between game one and game two was a major obstacle for Johnson, given how he has shown himself to be unusually durable either side of a six-month hiatus from the game for foot surgery and some overdue work on his technical and mental approaches to the game in 2011-12.

Three games later and he is rediscovering his rhythm, also sitting happily in the slipstream of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood as Australia's designated first-change bowler. Johnson's least convincing display since Auckland actually came against Sri Lanka when a dry pitch and the selection of Xavier Doherty meant he reverted to taking the new ball.

"I think it's worked perfectly, he's got a lot of attention," Johnson said, smiling, of his left-arm off-sider Starc. "He's obviously bowling very well. He's done a really good job upfront for us. His career in one-cricket has, so far, been outstanding. He's always performed well for us in one-day cricket. It wasn't a surprise that he was going to perform like this through the World Cup as well.

"It's very important to play my role in the team. I've really enjoyed being a first-change or second-change bowler throughout this tournament. I think it's probably suited the team, me bowling at first change and Starcy using that new ball and swinging the ball around and Josh or Patty using it at the other end pushing into the breeze. It's worked really well. The balance that we've got with our bowling attack is really good at the moment.

"As for my bowling, I felt like it really clicked coming into the start of the real stuff now. I feel like I'm one of those bowlers that the more I bowl the better I feel with rhythm. We've had five [or more] days between games and we've been training, but I just feel like I'm starting to click now."

McCullum and Tillakaratne Dilshan have inflicted the sorts of indignities Johnson had experienced before his time away from the game but very seldom faced in the past 18 months. Dilshan's sextet of boundaries at the SCG made for memorable viewing, but Johnson has exhibited his recently-found maturity by being able to shrug it off.

"I'm ready for whatever's going to come at me, I'm not stressed about those things," he said. "That over against Dilshan it wasn't a horrific over. I probably just over-pitched at the start and then back of a length, and he got away with it. I probably bowled that one short ball I wasn't happy with, to be honest. The rest were OK.

"How I fought back from that was really good for me. To be able to come back and bowl late in the game and be able to bowl that way when the wicket didn't change. We thought it was going to slow down a bit but it was a still a pretty good wicket. We held our nerve and won the game. Luckily we'd scored a lot of runs."

Nevertheless, it doesn't sound like Johnson will be lobbying to keep the current ODI playing conditions in place should he ever find himself on the ICC cricket committee. "There's a couple of overs here and there that have gone for runs," he said, "But that's what we expect in this day and age of this game and with the way players play the game now. Two new balls with four fielders out makes it a little bit predictable.

"It is something I've expected throughout this tournament and with the way the game is. It will be interesting to see if there's a bit more pressure on how guys play the game. Coming into a quarter-final we'll see if guys are still prepared to play that type of cricket."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Patrick on March 18, 2015, 11:12 GMT

    MJ is not an ODI opening bowler and from recollection his poorest spells have been opening at Eden Park and in Sydney after which he came back well in his later spell. He's unlikely to come on before first change again in this tournament, be interesting to see his stats minus those spells anyway hoping to see him & Patty Cummins hit some rhythm in Adelaide. If either of them show some form Aust will be unbeatable the way Starc & Faulkner are bowling.

  • Dean on March 17, 2015, 23:44 GMT

    Some people are kidding themselves...totally kidding themselves. Mitchell Johnson and Pat Cummins are class bowlers. Neither have done well to date, but this WC has been all over the place, with big gaps between games, rain following the Aussies around like a hungry dog, and a new ground, game-plan & opponent every time. Johnson and Cummins are pure rhythm bowlers, and for mine, I reckon they will turn it on when it matters most, bowling at 150kph, and Australia are going to destroy opponents from here on in.........besides with our batting depth we could nearly win it with my nanna bowling.

  • sam on March 17, 2015, 18:45 GMT

    Scoring 350 against this Australian bowling is possible. Just need to see off Starc and remember Faulkner bowls those back of the hand slower ones. Defending that is the difficult job as every Aussie player can bat explosively. Except Starc any solid batting line up will not fear anybody else especially since all matches from QF onwards are scheduled in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne all batting wickets. Johnson, Hazlewood, Cummins and even Faulkner are going to get some hammering in at least one of the three games if not in 2 of them. Starc is the best ODI bowler currently. I still expect Australia to win because their never ending explosive batting lineup appears to me a puzzle which no team can crack unless there is a lot of turn or swing.

  • Graham on March 17, 2015, 9:51 GMT

    Sinako Neither has bowled poorly its neither of them have been exceptional. Both have had one poor game. Im still pretty happy that we have Johnson in the Aussie team. The Pakis have great respect for him too you could see that test series they just completely tried to shut him out through defence with some good success. Im not sure jow they will go when they have to attack him.

  • Mitch on March 17, 2015, 9:40 GMT

    @ Damien, yep-that JF would throw down hardly at big times.. I prefer cummins to retain in squad,mate. MJ gonna be the hero!! Lets rock in KO.#Go Gold For Australia#

  • James on March 17, 2015, 9:36 GMT

    Those few very expensive overs have punched MJ's economy rate up to 5.8 this tournament, but his average (23) and strike rate (a wkt/22 balls) bely the angry denunciations by the usual suspects that he is a "flop". People are saying M Irfan will be missed by PAK. Irfan has a slightly worse average and much worse strike rate (31) than Johnson this WC, but of course his economy rate is better.

    The bottom line? Other than a few bad overs Johnson has been very good. Just because he isn't blowing them away like Starc doesn't mean he is a "flop". His ODI stats in general - average, economy, strike rate - are almost exactly the same as Steyn's - uncannily similar, to within the fraction. Check them out. So much for the difference in criticisms being because Steyn is more consistent, as some have claimed. I suspect other motivations which are more to do with the mindset of the poster, rather than anything to do with MJ.

  • richard on March 17, 2015, 8:44 GMT

    @ Dungar. Bob...... Geeze I hope someone has a dream that Watto :)

  • rob on March 17, 2015, 8:14 GMT

    @ Ricky Von C: My turn to dream. I think Cummins is a hell of a dangerous customer. He's not at his best right now but my dream is that he really hits his straps in the next few games and shows everyone what he's got. What he's got is pace, swing, seam and an uncanny ability to draw the bad shot out of the best batsmen. .. Like I said before mate, it's good to have a dream.

  • Mike on March 17, 2015, 8:04 GMT

    Geez!! JF will prove hard in KO. Starcy alongside would be spiffy, isn't it? Any clue about our team for QF? Marsh/Cummins?

  • richard on March 17, 2015, 7:22 GMT

    @ dunger.bob on | March 17, 2015, 6:59 GMT Spot on, there is a lot of dreaming (hoping) going on here, what I hope mate is that Cummins can get into the slipstream, I can live with Johnson, Cummins just has to bowl fast, they can be short good or full hitting or just outside off, the odd wide one not the other way around.

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