January 11, 2014

The difference the threat of injury makes

Mitchell Johnson has brought the forgotten art of bowling to intimidate back into focus
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Various theories are now doing the rounds as to why England have lost the Ashes so badly. And typically, the cricketing intelligentsia have thrown up some impressive suggestions that seemingly connect the dots in English cricket. But very often we will ignore the simple things that lead to an occurrence in a simple game of bat and ball.

I believe there was a just one straightforward reason that England lost 5-0 in the Ashes, and that reason was Mitchell Johnson. Not so much because he bowled quick but because of where he bowled those quick deliveries. Johnson bowled a total of 464 short balls in this series, most aimed at the ribs of the batsmen, which means of the total of 1132 balls he bowled, 41% were meant to intimidate the batsman physically. That, by modern standards, is an exceptionally high percentage, when bowling in the "right areas" and in the "channel outside the off stump" is the norm.

Johnson made the English batsmen fear for their lives, and once the survival instinct took over, they became easy pickings to balls pitched up. Not just for Johnson but for Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, who may have been pleasantly surprised to see how effective their full and good-length balls had suddenly become. They need to thank Johnson for that.

Glenn McGrath, a truly great fast bowler of our generation, started a new trend in cricket sometime in the mid-'90s. He bowled a narrow channel outside the off stump and rarely did anything else. By bowling in the right areas and in the channel, he picked up 563 wickets at an average of 21.64. There was no reason to dispute his tactics and a whole generation followed suit. Bowling in the right areas and staying patient became classic clich├ęs for seam bowlers, and there was not a single interview of a young seam bowler I heard in this time that did not have the phrases "right areas" and "being patient" in it.

Mitchell Johnson in this series, I thought, went back in time. Skipping the whole McGrath generation, to the time in the '80s when the great West Indian fast bowlers spread fear among batsmen in world cricket. Batsmen in the '80s were wary of those West Indians because they could seriously hurt you with at least two balls in an over - two balls that were aimed at your ribs, before that slightly fuller ball would come and do its work. Putting fear of physical hurt into the batsman's head was a wicket-taking tactic for them; in fact, it was their chief weapon. But the generation after McGrath seems almost to have forgotten about this weapon.

Johnson, by his deeds in this Ashes, may just have sent a strong reminder to all the fast bowlers around the world of this very potent wicket-taking tactic. For Test cricket's sake, I hope young fast bowlers take a cue. With their bodies well protected now, the chances of batsmen getting seriously hurt are slim. But as we have seen in the Ashes, it just makes for a more severe test of a batman's ability in a format that is called Test cricket for a reason.

Someone like Morne Morkel, especially, can take a leaf out of Johnson's book. Morkel has the perfect gifts to emulate Johnson, frightening batsmen with pace and bounce, but he generally tends to bowl like a "good boy" and uses the bouncer only as a variation, not in a genuine attempt to put fear into batsmen's minds. A batsman quickly senses when a bouncer from a fast bowler is just a token variation and when it is more than that.

When Johnson was bowling his bouncers you could see he was intent on attacking the body, forcing batsmen to take protective action. This makes all the difference. When a batsman is consumed by thoughts of protecting his body, protecting the stumps is not a preoccupation anymore.

I don't agree with the view that Australia have the three best fast bowlers in the world. What they have is one bowler who has rediscovered the tactic of physical intimidation, thereby making the job of Harris and Siddle that much easier. Instead of Johnson, think for a moment of another seam bowler in his place this series, one bowling in the right areas and in the channel outside the off stump. England would have looked a far better batting line-up than they did. Batsmen like Carberry and Cook for example, would have got their front foot further down the pitch with greater confidence. Enough to make Harris and Siddle have to work that much harder for their wickets.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY irishhawks on | January 11, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    Yes Sanjay to a great degree you are right..I think fact Johnson bowls at 150 kph and bowls left handed was also factor...Right handed batsmen always find it awkward to face left arm pacemen...After Akram we haven't heard of another left armer who could bowl at 150 kph..lee and akhtar were right handed bowlers...Johnson attacked at batsmen and got dividends...If Johnson were wayward even if he bowled at 150 kph it wouldnt have been different ball game..So Johnson was one bad guy who bowled thunderbolts aimed at batsmens throats...Evey Team needs character like that especially India..who keeps on rolling out bowlers with surname KUMAR..Bhuvneshvar, Praveen and most ordinary of the lot Vinay...All bowling at 125 kph and all at mercy of helpful conditions.

  • POSTED BY rajuramki on | January 11, 2014, 3:59 GMT

    MJ , in the past , was focussed on only bowling fast with the result that he was giving batsmen lot of freebies to score off . He used to bowl short and wide of the off stump,which was fodder for all batsmen . In this series, he directed his short balls on the body of the batsmen , instilling fear of injury in their minds. As rightly analysed by Sanjay, when your focus is more on protecting the body , protecting your wicket becomes a lesser priority . Obviously, Harris and Sidddle benefited by MJ's intimidatory bowling . A very good analysis indeed.

  • POSTED BY CM1000 on | January 15, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    @RednWhiteArmy - the problem is that, while they are skillful bowlers and great in English conditions, the English bowlers aren't consistently quick enough generally, or good enough in fast bouncy conditions, to do what Johnson did. Broad maybe, briefly, but the rest were cannon fodder most of the time they bowled short, especially against such attacking batsmen. Sanjay's article left out a critical point, that there are very few bowlers, if any, in the world today that could do what Johnson did, because of his extreme pace, his left arm angle, and his low point of delivery and skiddy action. Very good article, but I also disagree with Sanjay about Harris - he was the best bowler in England last series and awesome in this series, and the pressure he, Siddle and Watson helped build enabled Johnson to do what he did with such success. I do agree though that the 5-0 result had much more to do with how good Australia's bowling was than how bad England's batting is - cause & effect.

  • POSTED BY on | January 14, 2014, 10:06 GMT

    Sanjay makes some great points here. In recent years, there have been very few out and out fast (as opposed to fast medium) bowlers. When you add in padding, this means batsmen haven't been in fear of being hurt (unlike, say, facing Marshall, Garner and Holding). I don't want to see batsmen hurt, but they should have to take the possibility into consideration. It disturbs their concentration, and brings uncertainty into their footwork. McGrath was an exceptional bowler, using a method that worked brilliantly for him (Walsh and Ambrose used it towards the end of their careers too), but it doesn't work (or need to work) for everyone. For example, in the SA attack, Philander uses the "McGrath method", Steyn generally bowls full swingers, and Morne should be used as an intimidating bowler to help the other two get wickets.

  • POSTED BY popcorn on | January 14, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    Silly of Sanjay Manjrekar to think that Australia does not have the best fast bowling attack in the world. He wants us to think that Mitchell Johnson ONLY intimidated - he forgets that he got the highest number of wickets, and he got the Man of the Series Award NOT for Intimidation, but for taking the maximum number of wickeets.

  • POSTED BY Cruzan on | January 13, 2014, 17:31 GMT

    Exceptional fast bowlers throwing hostile stuff makes the game negative. It is just defend and wait and wait for a lose ball to play cricket shot. Game changed, dont know if there can be good cricketing shots !~

  • POSTED BY BRUTALANALYST on | January 13, 2014, 14:59 GMT

    Good article. I believe Test cricket needs more bowlers like Johnson to survive as nothing beats the adrenaline and excitement of watching a fast bowler with the ability to seriously injure batsman. Test cricket had become rather mild of late I hadn't seen so much excitement in a long time for all people to watch the game and that was almost entirey down to Mitch.

  • POSTED BY RednWhiteArmy on | January 13, 2014, 6:07 GMT

    England should have bowled so many beamers at Johnson

  • POSTED BY on | January 13, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    I thought English intention to stay on the wicket was missing, probably they were trying to counter attack.

  • POSTED BY on | January 13, 2014, 4:44 GMT

    I agree with what Sanjay says in parts. The biggest threat of Mitchell Johnson was to the tail and you could see how Broad, Swann while he was there, Anderson and Bresnan just folded up . In fact that was one of the key differences between the sides. I remember Rob Key the English batsman on the Ashes show reiterating that Mitchell Johnson is the no 1 pace bowler in the world ahead of Steyn just now. Whether he will continue to be as lethat is a moot point. Australia might still lose to south africa because of their weak batting but I think the australian pace atttack works better as a group. I saw the south africans struggle against India in the first game as it is very dependent on Steyn and he was neutralised in the first game. Interesting series in the offing . Ramanujam Sridhar

  • POSTED BY irishhawks on | January 11, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    Yes Sanjay to a great degree you are right..I think fact Johnson bowls at 150 kph and bowls left handed was also factor...Right handed batsmen always find it awkward to face left arm pacemen...After Akram we haven't heard of another left armer who could bowl at 150 kph..lee and akhtar were right handed bowlers...Johnson attacked at batsmen and got dividends...If Johnson were wayward even if he bowled at 150 kph it wouldnt have been different ball game..So Johnson was one bad guy who bowled thunderbolts aimed at batsmens throats...Evey Team needs character like that especially India..who keeps on rolling out bowlers with surname KUMAR..Bhuvneshvar, Praveen and most ordinary of the lot Vinay...All bowling at 125 kph and all at mercy of helpful conditions.

  • POSTED BY rajuramki on | January 11, 2014, 3:59 GMT

    MJ , in the past , was focussed on only bowling fast with the result that he was giving batsmen lot of freebies to score off . He used to bowl short and wide of the off stump,which was fodder for all batsmen . In this series, he directed his short balls on the body of the batsmen , instilling fear of injury in their minds. As rightly analysed by Sanjay, when your focus is more on protecting the body , protecting your wicket becomes a lesser priority . Obviously, Harris and Sidddle benefited by MJ's intimidatory bowling . A very good analysis indeed.

  • POSTED BY CM1000 on | January 15, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    @RednWhiteArmy - the problem is that, while they are skillful bowlers and great in English conditions, the English bowlers aren't consistently quick enough generally, or good enough in fast bouncy conditions, to do what Johnson did. Broad maybe, briefly, but the rest were cannon fodder most of the time they bowled short, especially against such attacking batsmen. Sanjay's article left out a critical point, that there are very few bowlers, if any, in the world today that could do what Johnson did, because of his extreme pace, his left arm angle, and his low point of delivery and skiddy action. Very good article, but I also disagree with Sanjay about Harris - he was the best bowler in England last series and awesome in this series, and the pressure he, Siddle and Watson helped build enabled Johnson to do what he did with such success. I do agree though that the 5-0 result had much more to do with how good Australia's bowling was than how bad England's batting is - cause & effect.

  • POSTED BY on | January 14, 2014, 10:06 GMT

    Sanjay makes some great points here. In recent years, there have been very few out and out fast (as opposed to fast medium) bowlers. When you add in padding, this means batsmen haven't been in fear of being hurt (unlike, say, facing Marshall, Garner and Holding). I don't want to see batsmen hurt, but they should have to take the possibility into consideration. It disturbs their concentration, and brings uncertainty into their footwork. McGrath was an exceptional bowler, using a method that worked brilliantly for him (Walsh and Ambrose used it towards the end of their careers too), but it doesn't work (or need to work) for everyone. For example, in the SA attack, Philander uses the "McGrath method", Steyn generally bowls full swingers, and Morne should be used as an intimidating bowler to help the other two get wickets.

  • POSTED BY popcorn on | January 14, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    Silly of Sanjay Manjrekar to think that Australia does not have the best fast bowling attack in the world. He wants us to think that Mitchell Johnson ONLY intimidated - he forgets that he got the highest number of wickets, and he got the Man of the Series Award NOT for Intimidation, but for taking the maximum number of wickeets.

  • POSTED BY Cruzan on | January 13, 2014, 17:31 GMT

    Exceptional fast bowlers throwing hostile stuff makes the game negative. It is just defend and wait and wait for a lose ball to play cricket shot. Game changed, dont know if there can be good cricketing shots !~

  • POSTED BY BRUTALANALYST on | January 13, 2014, 14:59 GMT

    Good article. I believe Test cricket needs more bowlers like Johnson to survive as nothing beats the adrenaline and excitement of watching a fast bowler with the ability to seriously injure batsman. Test cricket had become rather mild of late I hadn't seen so much excitement in a long time for all people to watch the game and that was almost entirey down to Mitch.

  • POSTED BY RednWhiteArmy on | January 13, 2014, 6:07 GMT

    England should have bowled so many beamers at Johnson

  • POSTED BY on | January 13, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    I thought English intention to stay on the wicket was missing, probably they were trying to counter attack.

  • POSTED BY on | January 13, 2014, 4:44 GMT

    I agree with what Sanjay says in parts. The biggest threat of Mitchell Johnson was to the tail and you could see how Broad, Swann while he was there, Anderson and Bresnan just folded up . In fact that was one of the key differences between the sides. I remember Rob Key the English batsman on the Ashes show reiterating that Mitchell Johnson is the no 1 pace bowler in the world ahead of Steyn just now. Whether he will continue to be as lethat is a moot point. Australia might still lose to south africa because of their weak batting but I think the australian pace atttack works better as a group. I saw the south africans struggle against India in the first game as it is very dependent on Steyn and he was neutralised in the first game. Interesting series in the offing . Ramanujam Sridhar

  • POSTED BY mrhamilton on | January 13, 2014, 2:27 GMT

    Pretty simplistic thinking by manjrekar if he thinks only mitchell Johnson's short pitched bowling created the 5-0.nonsense. middle and Harris were world class,as they had been in England.Johnson couldn't have done what he did without them.overall Mitch was 33 per cent of the reason for 5-0,the rest was Rogers and Smith arriving as quality test batsmen,haddin and Watson regaining form, and Warner and Clarke were magnificent

  • POSTED BY android_user on | January 13, 2014, 2:14 GMT

    don't agree here. modern batters don't chicken out like this. This loss is attributed to overhyped out of form England batters. let's see mj against sa. he just needs 4 good hook shots to go back to original mj

  • POSTED BY ShutTheGate on | January 12, 2014, 22:21 GMT

    hmm, I thought it was the other way around.

    It was because of Siddle, Harris and Lyon bowling tight and building pressure that allowed Johnson to be effective. Otherwise the batsmen could have just ducked and swayed until Johnson got tired and was replaced.

  • POSTED BY mk49_van on | January 12, 2014, 19:57 GMT

    Waiting to see if the tactic will work in SA, and if it does - SA can return the favor in spades. SA has a better batting side - so I can also imagine them doing to Aussies what the Aussies did to the English. Can't wait for the series to begin.

  • POSTED BY S.Jagernath on | January 12, 2014, 16:36 GMT

    The main issue for Mitchell Johnson is taking wickets away from home,he has always been successful in Australia,but is really poor away from Australia.England played really badly,pitches were definitely good.It just took some really poor batting against pace.

  • POSTED BY AidanFX on | January 12, 2014, 14:49 GMT

    @ Tumbaramber ... I agree with you here. When Tait was at his quickest there was no way he could sustain that pace all day (even though his quickest probably excelks Johnson). I recall Aktar and Lee ... In a test match some of their spells would go down to fast Medium 136 - 40. What Johnson did by beimg consistently 145 + was rare in this day and age. Steyn would be a better bowler overall I don't question, but he cannot bowl the same method Johnson did in that series.

  • POSTED BY Tumbarumbar on | January 12, 2014, 12:47 GMT

    @blogossip asks if MJ can be successful bowling short pitched deliveries at the body on dead pitches. I guess the best answer is outstanding result this season in the Adelaide test,. On what was little more than a road he was the one bowler who made the ball rear off just short of a length and perhaps more importantly while his fastest ball was in the mid 150s most of his deliveries were 145 km/hr or over so he produced serious pace all day every day. No other bowler in the world at the moment, not one, keeps their pace up in the mid to high 140s throughout the game. Even Dale Steyn, as great as he is, bowls no more than fast medium for the majority of the time nowadays (according to the speed guns) but he looks much faster. I think his bowling style is suited to producing those balls that skid off the deck and seem to leap suddenly at the batters like Thommo, Malinga and Tait.

  • POSTED BY blogossip on | January 12, 2014, 10:04 GMT

    Mr Sanjay I partially agree with you. Its true MJ has been the main difference between two sides however you need to remember England were already a team in decline. 3-0 win in England last summer was an abberation where Australia was very close to winning two tests. England lost a lot of wickets to catches and it had a lot to do with the mindset for ex Pitersen threw his wicket on many occasions. Lyon got 5ers , hence reflecting how much England were in disarray

    MJ has boweled superbly but can he get wickets on dead tracks with this strategy? Mind you Harris was stand out bowler in England and here he was threatening too. Mcgrath was potent on almost all tracks. I guess SA- Aus in Feb will answer many questions regarding MJ and renaissance of Australia.

  • POSTED BY CricFan24 on | January 12, 2014, 8:52 GMT

    The article is absolutely true- IMO. Johnson and his true express ,hostile pace made all the difference. A Mcgrath, while a great bowler, only really threatened most great batsmen in the initial stages of their innings . When they were still no "in" and Mcgraths robotic accuracy made them play one shot too many..Very rarely has Mcgrath got the better of the top batsmen once they were in. There are numerous great innings played against Mcgrath . By contrast, against genuine pace - the 145/150+k bowlers a batsman is never really in. The sheer hostility and pace can unsettle the best at any stage of their innings. Not just at the beginning. A fast (truly fast) bowler MUST, almost by definition, be hostile. We can leave the guile and "right areas" stuff to the slower bowlers.

  • POSTED BY zenboomerang on | January 12, 2014, 6:27 GMT

    No it wasn't just Johnson. The superb line & length bowling by Harris & Siddle allowed Johnson to come in short bursts with free reign to his bowling. If it was just MJ, why didn't the Poms smash Rhino, Sidds, Lyon, Watson all over the paddock? The WI anology is wrong - the WI's had 4 express bowlers bowling not 1... Very few bowlers can bowl as fast as MJ for extended periods - aka 5 Tests in a row - so no seamers will bowl armpit balls at 130kph without being creamed. Why didn't the Eng batters just hook & pull MJ? - because he is a LHB'er.

    The fact that Eng also failed to bowl out Oz 9 times in 10 Tests doesn't come into your calculations?... Try the warm-up matches - again failed to bowl out Oz in 3 of the 4 matches in Oz - the only match they bowled out our XI was with Broad, Finn, Swann, Rankin against our Tremain, Bills, Muirhead, Lalor - A international line-up against a good Grade squad.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | January 12, 2014, 6:11 GMT

    As rightly pointed out by Manjrekar, McGrath gave birth to a completely new crop of fast bowlers after him with none of them achieving the same sort of success as McGrath did primarily because of 2 reasons: 1. The pace at which McGrath bowled which though wasn't express but was not gentle enough as Indian 'fast' bowlers either. 2. His height created created that sort of a bounce from good length areas that clipped the top of off stump. Not something everyone was again capable of.

    So that template looked pretty good on a coaching manual but wasn't as effective for anyone else.

    Bowlers with good athletic abilities and the ability to rattle the batsmen with their pace can indeed look upto Mitchell Johnson as an example in the modern era. Loved to see him make English batsmen dance all over the wicket.

  • POSTED BY on | January 12, 2014, 5:41 GMT

    I agree with Sanjay. Without the looming physical threat of pacy bowling of Johnson, there is no way a side like England would have appeared so ordinary. They are a far better batting side than the results show. The same thing was on notice in the recent Ind-SA series though to a lesser extent. Steyn was bowling short and at full pace even to tailenders aiming at their throats. Top order batters survived for long spells with reasonable technique and patience but lower order was blown away contributing nothing in each of India's innings.

  • POSTED BY SL-USA-Lions on | January 12, 2014, 5:34 GMT

    @ Everyone:

    AUS won the series with the help of the fast Bowlers intimidating the ENG top batting line up...

    But this wasn't even close to the '70s, '80s and mid '90s REAL FAST & INTIMIDATING BOWLING...

    It's THE ART of real fast bowling with Pace, Line & Length along with Swing That creates the TOTAL FAST BOWLING PACKAGE.

    Having extra padding all over your body is an option but at what cost? Low reflexes, mobility and extra weight? It's not possible because if it was it would have been in place already.

    Let me make it SHORT & SWEET:

    Johnson having A BIG MUSTACHE DOES NOT MAKE HIM THE NEXT LILLEE.

  • POSTED BY DaisonGarvasis on | January 12, 2014, 5:25 GMT

    Great article this. Yes, the X-factor was Johnson. If you remove Johnson from the series, Harris and Siddle would have looked different, England batting would have looked different. Batsmen all around the world do struggle when the ball is aimed at your ribs at pace. In fact, with Johnson in full flow, even the batting collapses by Australia were forgotten. There were collpases in almost all tests but then Johnon came and tor away any chance England hand with those collpases.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | January 12, 2014, 3:26 GMT

    Looking at attacks around the world India,SL- Too dependent on spin friendly conditions as medium pacers are mediocre Pakistan - Inexperienced but signs are good if Ajmal is in form NZ,WI - Good but not threatening ENG - Perhaps a touch too dependent on swing and Anderson ? Swann's retired. SA - Great pace attack, but spin is a question mark ?? AUS - Potential all-weather attack. Pace - tick(Johnson,Cummins) , Swing and Seam - tick (Bird, Harris, Coulter-Nile). Backup/ Reverse Swing - tick( Starc, Pattinson). Spin - mild tick ( Lyon, Aftab Ahmed).

    Although the Aus bowling didn't do too well in India last time, Starc, Pattinson , Lyon all bowled well in patches so that might be encouraging next time they tour sub-continent.

  • POSTED BY Ruminate on | January 12, 2014, 2:59 GMT

    As Sanjay says, it is great to see the lost art of fast bowling intimidation revived, though if you asked any of the batsmen facing Allan Donald, Shoaib Akhtar, or Brett Lee, they might say that it never truly went away. Ok, the first misconception in Sanjay's article and some of the comments is that various Australian players/coaches have laid claim to the best fast bowlers in the world. That is not the same as the actual claim, which was that they are the best attack in the world. Whether you agree with this sentiment or not they are completely different claims, it is the combination of bowlers that worked and interestingly, most of Johnson's wickets came not when bowling with the other quicks but when he was bowling in tandem with Lyon. Steyn is unquestionably the best in the world and good bowler that he is, Philander owes some of his wickets to Steyn. Sanjay understates Harris's performance too, he does a fair bit more than just put it in the corridor, as Cook would attest

  • POSTED BY dunger.bob on | January 12, 2014, 2:10 GMT

    @ jw76 : What a joke. Some of you guys are so womanish I can only laugh. Have you never seen a game of rugby (union or league). What about Gridiron. Ever heard of boxing? .. Cricket is a mild sport compared to those but still too tough for you it seems. .. Take up knitting mate, but be careful of those needles, they're deadly dangerous.

  • POSTED BY on | January 12, 2014, 0:52 GMT

    I think sanjay has got it wrong this time. Agreed johnson was the difference but it was not because of scarring the batsmen .Gone are the days when batsman feared for their lives as they had no helmets and the protective gears.These days even an zaheer khan hits steyn and morkel as they are protected totally.Two things contributed to england's downfall was their lack of commitment and right technique and also johnson swinging both ways at a great speed.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 23:22 GMT

    This is an interesting article, the final piece of reasoning is however bereft of logic. Australia apparently aren't the best bowling attack in the world because it's only because Johnson bowls this way that they are effective. Well yes, if he bowled more like Harmison on a bad day things would be different, but he doesn't, so things aren't different, they are as they are.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 23:10 GMT

    I think Australia and South Africa have the best Pace Attack in the world ....and each Attack has flexibilty within their attack ...they bowl to a plan and for each other ....India have a popgun attack....and outside India there team is mediocre at best ...Love the optimism from their fans though ...:D

  • POSTED BY sifter132 on | January 11, 2014, 22:16 GMT

    Glenn McGrath started a new generation of line and lengthers? Mitchell Johnson bowled 41% of balls trying to maim people? This is somehow unique?? I disagree with all those points. Shaun Pollock is the only guy I can think of who bowls like McGrath and they were contemporaries. Those that came after McGrath? eg. Steyn, Johnson, Ntini, Zaheer, Anderson, Morkel, Lee - none of those bowl like McGrath! Whom has he inspired? Yes, medium-fast bowlers now drone on about 'good/right areas', but that is only because they have nothing else to talk about - they have no pace! Is anyone under 140kph a McGrath disciple??

    And are you telling me Sanjay that no other fast bowler has bowled 41% of his balls short in a series for a while? Codswallop I'd say. For starters, how is this measured? Anything in the 'short' zone on Hawkeye I imagine will have been deemed an intimidating delivery. But I imagine that Morne Morkel whom is mentioned would hit at least 41% short every series.

  • POSTED BY Moppa on | January 11, 2014, 21:54 GMT

    Manjrekar makes some good points but his argument is over-simplified and under-values the quality of Harris and Siddle's bowling. Firstly, it's all very well to tactically try to intimidate the batsmen, but you have to do it well. Johnson's improved accuracy, sustained pace, awkward trajectory and left-arm angle made this tactic effective. Not many bowlers would have the same effect. I'm reminded of the 2001 Ashes, when Brett Lee was supposed to be Steve Waugh's 'shock weapon'. The only thing shocking about it was how hard his deliveries hit the square fences. Secondly, I don't think Cook, Root, Bell or KP were genuinely fearful of their bodies from Johnson - they were just undone by good bowling across the pace trio, not intimidated out of their wickets. The tail were certainly rattled, however. Thirdly, the tactic can be effective when it is used sparingly - just often enough that it's in the back of the batsman's mind. You don't need to bowl 41% deliveries to intimidate.

  • POSTED BY neo-galactico on | January 11, 2014, 21:27 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx If a guy averages over 17 for the year having taken 51 wickets is off-colour then he's a fire-breathing dragon when "on-colour". Perhaps you've seen a couple of bad games and came to that assertion but Steyn like any other player including past greats can have a bad game or 2.

  • POSTED BY itsthewayuplay on | January 11, 2014, 19:58 GMT

    There are 2 factors other than his speed that made England's job more tricky against Johnson. The fact he is a left armer and his slingy action.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 19:50 GMT

    For me , the big difference is that for Australia with MJ bowling well the tail starts at 5 . This has laid bare the bowl dry bat long idea .

  • POSTED BY analyseabhishek on | January 11, 2014, 19:04 GMT

    I think there was an additional piece of detail at work here. Mitchell Johnson was just not quick and fiery, he was dead accurate as well- and that was what made the life of the batsmen difficult. E.g. the ball that got Cook hooking so early in the 2nd test was travelling right into his eyes. The 150kph speed, the accuracy, captaincy pressure and the need to be 'positive' all contributed to Cook playing an uncharacteristic shot.

  • POSTED BY Chris_P on | January 11, 2014, 18:43 GMT

    @Protears. A couple of things, Harris didn't go to India, Johnson didn't play the tests in England. We can all go back to past series & point out shortcomings, SHane Warne was averaging 250 after 3 tests. I saw Morkel last year in Australia & he was very ordinary in Adelaide, Philander's average was 50. They are quality bowlers, but all bowlers go through troughs & peaks. Considering the depth of quality we have, understanding you have the top 2 rated bowlers, I'll take what is in our paddock for the few years thanks. Let's not forget, an 18yo bowler stepped in & took control of a very powerfeul SA batting line-up last time. Now THEY didn't look comfortable at all facing Cummins.

  • POSTED BY RahulPoonja on | January 11, 2014, 17:38 GMT

    Lillee Lillee Kill Kill Kill!!! The Aussies thought of aggressive bowling before the west indies. After WI got hammered by the Aussies and their pace attack in the 70's, they emulated the original hitmen and created their very own line up of intimidaters. Looks like cricket has taken a full circle and the aussies are reliving their glory days of knocking heads with the cherry. Watch out! The west indies might start bowling quick again too.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 17:23 GMT

    There have always been aggressive fast bowlers around that have cause headaches to batsmen but as others have pointed out Johnson is a lift arm bowler with that awkward slinging action which makes him the handful. Also i agree that this article does not give Harris and Siddle enough credit. They were great in England and continued the form here in Aust. Johnson won't always fire like this every series and i expect to see Siddle and Harris step up when that happens- if Harris stays fit.

  • POSTED BY SPotnis on | January 11, 2014, 17:05 GMT

    Sanjay, this is a very good perspective and I hope people will understand why West Indies were successful for so long. They had world class bowlers like Holding, Roberts, Marshall, Garner, who could demolish you mentally and in a hurry. They were very fast but also deadly accurate. Same goes with Lillee, Thomson and Pascoe. As the great Imran Khan once famously said, for a period 3 or 4 year Holding bowled so fast that people used to run to the other end to face Andy Roberts. There was no respite from either end. Mind well, all these above bowlers were truly great bowlers. The speed & accuracy created so much of doubts in batsman's mind that wickets followed automatically. More important they were intelligent bowlers who outsmarted the batsmen. It takes lot of courage to face the accurate yet very fast bowling and batsmen who do that at the test level are the best among the best. That is why Gavaskar, Richards, Tendulkar, Lara are the cream of the best over the period of last 40 years

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 16:58 GMT

    Hi Sanjay,

    As always, you are right on....It's true Australia doesn't have the 3 best fast bowlers in the world. What is also true is we are seeing Mitch successfully intimidated the English players and take away their focus from technique and temperement to survival!

    Thank you Sanjay for your work....keep it up!

  • POSTED BY android_user on | January 11, 2014, 16:51 GMT

    @Ivan Sowry Johnson, Pattinson, Cummins, Siddle and Lyon looks very formidable but I would make a small change on dry pitches. In sub continent I might be tempted to replace Siddle with Mitchell Starc. He showed great potential with the bat and impressive reverse swing. In Mohali he bowled a good spell bringing the new ball in. He even scored 99. With Starc, it looks like an all-weather attack. Johnson and Cummins with pace and intimidation up front , Pattinson and Starc pretty handy with reverse swing (and these are fast pace bowlers as well) and Lyon backing up. Siddle and Harris may be rotated in seamer friendly conditions I suppose if Starc is not desirable in seam friendly condns.

  • POSTED BY Sir_Ivor on | January 11, 2014, 16:16 GMT

    Madan Lal who was a match-winning bowler both at the domestic and international level used to bowl at around 125 kmph. he got wickets just with accuracy and moving the ball.There was no physical threat to a batsman's well being.It was the same with Roger Binny and Mohender Amarnath. But they got crucial wickets at the highest level.They were not even remotely in the fast category.Incidentally.Mohinder Amarnath was one of the best players of fast bowling against the most fearsome West Indian lot of Marshall,Holding and their ilk.But he was seen as being suspect against fast bowling in the India Australia series of 1969/70.History will only acknowledge that he was not chicken because of his brilliant play against thelikes of Imran,Waqar,Wasim Holding and Marshall. Madanldial was different though. He used to run towards the square leg umpire when fast bowlers used to approach the stumps. But once helmets came he threatened even Jeff Thomson of his future in this world once in Australia !

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    As some comments point out, it is also Johnson's awkward left arm angle. But Marshall used to get something like that going by bowling round the wicket. Steyn does that too from time to time. At any rate, pace is indeed a better weapon if used, effectively, to intimidate rather than just giving the batsmen something to work with.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    Its human nature to protect themselves, but not just humans but everyone. As Johnson bowls super fast those bouncers would strike fear into anyone. However I would like to see how SA do as they are the best batsmen vs pacers and especially how they deal with those bouncers by Mitch!

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 15:29 GMT

    Excellent article. Brought back memories of India's tour of the Windies in 1983 when the home team had in its bowling line-up, Roberts, Holding, Marshall and Garner. And Marshall in particular was lethal at that time. Coming around the wicket with an angled run-up, he had the Indian batsmen on the back foot most of the time. There was the very real danger of serious injury. I remember listening to the radio commentary then. Almost every other ball, the batsmen would be hit - on the chest or the stomach, or the elbow, or the fingers or the shoulder or the helmet and on and on and on. No Indian batsman could stand up to that fury, with the exception of Mohinder Amarnath, who ended up as the Man of the Series then.

  • POSTED BY Sir_Ivor on | January 11, 2014, 15:26 GMT

    The fastest bowlers from Pakistan in those great days were Mohd Zahid and Mohamed Akram whos is the current bowling coach for Pakistan. Zahid was truly fast by any standards as he showed in his first test,I think against new Zealand. He used to bowl quicker than Shoaib. i say this having seen both bowl. The difference was that Zahid seemed a bit shy unlike the showman style of Shoaib. Mohamed Akram was similar. The point that struck me after reading this article from Sanjay was that other than Sachin Tendulkar getting hit on the nose in his first test by Waqar Younis, I have not known any one else hitting any batsmen at the international level. Yes they used to get wickets but never caused injury. So whether it was the swinging yorkers of Waqar or the reverse swing of Wasim,and Imran, they concentrated on getting wickets. It wads the same with Magrath and Hadlee. It is all very theatric to see players fall in gore. But the real thing like Imran and co showed,was getting wickets.

  • POSTED BY Batmanindallas on | January 11, 2014, 15:10 GMT

    Sanjay is spot on. Johnson made all the difference...

  • POSTED BY Vilander on | January 11, 2014, 15:03 GMT

    Akram never bowled 150k he just touched 140k, onlyWaqar touched 150. Akram was all about great control swing and very good pace and guile, its much more difficult than bowling fast. And no crickets balls however fast do not take lives when one has a helmet...well mostly. MJ was geneuinly fast and accurate here, he has improved his control without loosing pace that is because of hard work and putting in long hours.

  • POSTED BY ramab on | January 11, 2014, 14:37 GMT

    Very good article. Johnson was amazing to keep the consistency in line and length he wanted to bowl. Wondering if he would be able to keep that consistency on the road at SA and for a long time. The difference between Johnson and WI fast bowling greats were that they were threatening over a long period of time at both home and road.

  • POSTED BY gujratwalla on | January 11, 2014, 14:32 GMT

    I totally agree with you Sanjay.I would go further and say tactics of Johnson were realy a variation of body line bowling albeit without the leg side fielders.Johnson directed his balls at the batsmens throat and therefore had a large slip cauldron.A batsman of class should be able to overcome the fear factor but even with the helmets and body paddings modern batsmen have yet to master this strategy.You will remember that the Stokes lad played Johnson pretty well even on the cracked Perth pitch so there is lot to be said for a strong will and determination as well as skill.The West Indies had several fast bowlers who used the fear method the most dangerous was probably Roberts whose bouncer was the most lethal of all.

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | January 11, 2014, 14:27 GMT

    Brilliantly observed by Manjrekar. Im of the similar opinion that fear of getting hit is greater than the injury it causes. It curbs natural instincts and makes u forget your basics, exactly what happened to Cook. Siddle and Harris really bowled well but without Johnson's threat English Batsman would played differently.

  • POSTED BY seantells on | January 11, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    well in my opinion Eng team's poor psychology made Johnson a hero, he is not a great bowler and in future very unlikely he will end his career as a great bowler, he has very good pace and some Aus pitches helped him a lot most of the wicket taking deliveries were courtesy of Eng silly batting performances. soon in future we could see how he fares , the only fast bowler who could make the great list at the current scene is Steyn

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 12:27 GMT

    I have played some amount of cricket and I strongly feel that improved rib cage padding and redesigned helmets with creative cage that provides better coverage can do wonders in nullifying the fear of short balls hitting the body.

  • POSTED BY AidanFX on | January 11, 2014, 12:14 GMT

    To go with the authors point here - the intimidation Johnson brought the English batsmen was most evident by England's captain Cook and his final dismissal. Johnson got him out to a ball which was an ok short delivery but one he certainly did not have to play but he found himself fending at it loosely from his body. To be fair he was probably concerned by the angle of the delivery which was heading his way, but the array of short balls he faced no doubt made him more ultra-sensitive. I recall Cook's last tour - he was almost impossible to get out. He either punished the bad - ordinary ball or left it everything outside his off stump that may have otherwise been risky. But Johnson this time unsettled him. Cook did not look like himself.

  • POSTED BY TheProfPak on | January 11, 2014, 11:50 GMT

    @Nayab Shahzeb: Spot on mate. Shoaib Akhtar was one intimidating bowler on any given day on any given wicket. In fact, all Pakistani bowlers before the introduction of Umar Gul were intimidating, Wasim, Waqar, M. Zahid, Shoaib are had only one target, 'get batsmen thinking of his survival and the wicket will come'. Good analysis Sanjay Manjrekar, spot on. One Pakistani bowler in that era was Aaqib Javed, who was a line and length bowler and he remained bowling coach for too long, producing a lot of 'good boys'.

  • POSTED BY Percy_Fender on | January 11, 2014, 11:37 GMT

    Sanjay was a superb player of very fast bowling even in his early years in test cricket despite a truly painful debut at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi when he got hit on his eye by a bouncer from Winston Benjamin. His technical perfection of getting behind the line of the ball thanks to his Bombay schooling caused him to get behind a ball that rose from a back of length delivery. It somehow got through his helmet and hit him. He took no further part in that test match and India lost. Despite that very unfortunate start to his career he was the amongst the very best against the likes of Bishop, Ambrose Walsh Wasim Waqar Shoaib. and Donald.He looked fearless.Batsmen like Vijay Manjrekar Gavaskar, Amarnath, Vishwanath, Dravid,Tendulkar and Sanjay never once looked scared of facing even the fastest bowlers of their time. If they failed in a particular series in England or Australia, it was only because of the moving or bouncing ball.England's batsmen looked scared both in '74 and in 2013.

  • POSTED BY xtrafalgarx on | January 11, 2014, 10:55 GMT

    @Protears: Our bowling has been fine for a few years now, it was our batting that let us down. Harris was great on his own in England and we got into winning positions in every match except for Lords! He didn't play in India, neither did Johnson apart from 1 match when he was under done.

    Harris for mine is just as good as, if not better than Philander because of his performances away from home and extra pace. Steyn has been off-colour for a year now and i reckon he is there for the taking. The under estimated Morkel is the guy i think will give us the most trouble.

  • POSTED BY Un_Citoyen_Indien on | January 11, 2014, 10:47 GMT

    @ Sanjay Manjrekar: Very good article.

    @ Protears: Well said. Good bowlers are good bowlers in ANY conditions, not just helpful ones. Johnson in India looked no better than a club bowler and was essentially medium pace. Ironically, it was India and especially the IPL that helped Johnson turn into the demon bowler that he has now become.

  • POSTED BY mukesh_LOVE.cricket on | January 11, 2014, 10:23 GMT

    Well i think Ryan harris is a great bowler in his own right , but back to Johnson , yes he is probably the fastest in the world at the moment but more than pace alone i think its his action that makes him so tough , his slightly slingy action makes it much more harder to pick his length making it really tough for the batsman

  • POSTED BY AidanFX on | January 11, 2014, 10:00 GMT

    The method Johnson bowled in the series just gone by would be pretty hard to replicate. Whilst he obviously didn't direct every short ball perfectly, the amount of balls he did land right was quite remarkable - either high at the helmet or even better were the rib cage deliveries. I don't think too many bowlers would have the physique to bowl this way. The other thing that other bowlers would struggle to replicate is the fact his bouncer was often his quicker delivery (most pace bowlers lose a few km with the short ball). I don't think Steyn could bowl this way in a sustained way (I think Steyn is a much better bowler don't mistake me here, and he can definitely bowl some lethal short balls but I don't think he could bowl this way - he is a different kind of fast bowler). Johnso has a unique quality I hope he can continue for some time.

  • POSTED BY Clyde on | January 11, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    It was amazing to see the English batsmen so lacking in the technique they needed 41 per cent of time facing Johnson. A rib ball is not going to hit the wicket. If the batsman has a rib pad this ball should be nothing more than a waste of time. The article does not get to the nub. We still don't know exactly what was going on technically in the Ashes series.

  • POSTED BY VisBal on | January 11, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    Hrolf, there are a couple of reasons why the strategy works better with Johnson than with Lee. Johnson is slingy, so there is always the element of doubt in the mind of the batsman with respect to the line. Moreover, Johnson being left handed is going to blindside most batsmen (who tend to be right handed).

  • POSTED BY jw76 on | January 11, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    Intimidation? What other sport allows one competitor to threaten the other with physical injury, while his opponent is virtually incapable of retaliating in kind? There have been plenty of fast bowlers in the past who have assaulted the batsman's body and indeed caused serious injury, even in these days of helmets, with complete impunity, safe in the knowledge that the batsman does not have the means to do him a physical injury in return. This is pretty much a definition of bullying.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | January 11, 2014, 9:25 GMT

    It's a surprise shoiab akhtas name is not being mentioned anywhere..he sure scared the hell out of batsmen with his even quicker bouncers..!

  • POSTED BY Nickoshot on | January 11, 2014, 9:22 GMT

    I don't think it is only following the Glenn McGrath that has led to consistence over raw aggression it is also the amount of cricket played. An English county bowler selected for everything would play 16 first class matches with plenty of one day cricket on top. The chances of avoiding significant injury are pretty low when bowling into the 90mph/150kph and without the shear speed it hard to intimidate batmen.

    Look at Stuart "The enforcer" Broad in 2011 looks of short stuff no wickets

  • POSTED BY Protears on | January 11, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha Geee you think India are going to make pitches with grass binding and with ripsnorting bounce and pace, the point of a tour is to play on the oppositions conditions and what India did to Australia was nothing short of what Australia did to England. Ashwin and Kumar were impressive and Australia got run over by Dharwan and Pujara in particular. But doesn't mean you cannot play in India, Steyn has 26 wickets in 5 matches with a 36.5 SR in India and 71 wickets in 14 tests in Asia(UAE, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh) with a 39 SR. It is not a matter of doctoring its a matter of Australia's bowling being ideal for their home conditions. Tall fast bowlers that get good bounce and carry that's how to be successful on their home pitches.

  • POSTED BY Hrolf on | January 11, 2014, 8:46 GMT

    A very good, but not completely accurate analysis. Under S Waugh's tenure Brett Lee was used to intimidate batsmen. This was to the detriment of his figures, and I believe the team's results. Brett Lee was certainly faster than Johnson, but was somehow much less intimidating no matter how he tried. Success of this technique by the bowler requires subtle changes in speed, direction and ball handling, and at speed this is very difficult and requires strength, as well as accuracy. Johnson's bowling action allows for these last microsecond changes - it gives the appearance to the batsman of the ball arriving earlier and leaving the hand unpredictably. Only then can you intimidate the batsman - a powerful weapon, but one that requires great skill.

  • POSTED BY TheBigBoodha on | January 11, 2014, 8:29 GMT

    Agreed, but the article seriously underestimates Hatris' abilities. He did just as well in England without Johnson, and was the best fast bowler in that series.

    Protears, the bowlers did very well in England, and in India the pitches were just so utterly doctored there was no way any quick could get any bounce or movement. Dry, grassless, flat, doctored in specific sections to maximise the impact or India's bowlers and minimise the impact of Australia's. I have to admit though, it was impressive. I have never seen such precision in spot doctoring wickets before. .

  • POSTED BY Chris_Howard on | January 11, 2014, 8:16 GMT

    Plenty of other bowlers use (overuse) the short ball without anywhere near the success.

    What makes the short ball work for Johnson is he's able to get awkward angles, helped by being left handed and having a slingy action.

    I've got a 17yo and 15yo of the same height with similar lively pace, but with very different actions.

    The 17yo's shortballs - delivered with a conventional action - around the ribs are just never as threatening, and regularly get carted.

    Whereas, the 15yo's shortballs tend to "spit" off the pitch and hurry the batsmen, so he rarely gets carted. His action is like nothing you've seen before.

    So I don't think any old quick bowler can come along and make the shortball extra dangerous just by aiming it at the ribs. There's so much more to it than that.

    Mitch, though, has always stood out as one who could. Ask Graeme Smith, whose arm he broke a few years back.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 7:53 GMT

    11.1 Johnson to Bell, no run, bouncer and Bell thought about flicking it, the ball brushing his rib cage. Johnson roars an appeal, but umpire Dar indicates he was nowhere near it 11.2 Johnson to Bell, no run, nasty, vicious, wonderful delivery! Kept following him and Bell couldn't get out of the way, almost ducking into it. Fended away 11.3 Johnson to Bell, 1 run, that's even better! What a brute that is, Bell jumping and skipping back in his crease, desperate to evade it, but fends it over short-leg. That was heading into his neck 17.6 Johnson to Bell, no run, bangs it in short and Bell fends, oh, it's safely short of leg gully! These bouncers from Johnson to Bell are fascinating, Bell hasn't looked at all comfortable but has survived 65.2 Johnson to Prior, no run, and that's hit Prior - shorter ball and that really has flew onto Prior much quicker than he thought. Smacked on the gloves - pretty well played in the end

    65.3 Johnson to Prior, OUT, the slower ball...

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    13.1 Johnson to Strauss, no run, ooh, that spat up at Strauss off a length. Johnson glares and snarls at Strauss 7.4 Johnson to Strauss, no run, oh, Strauss gets himself in a real mess here. Johnson bounces him, Strauss doesn't know whether to come forward or go back, half defends and half pulls, and the ball crunches him on the glove 25.6 Johnson to Collingwood, no run, that is a ripsnorting bouncer to welcome Collingwood! Straight, and right at his throat. Collingwood jumps up and back and does well to get some bat on that, or it could've taken his head clean off 59.3 Johnson to Onions, no run, nearly bowled him! Horrid short ball hits him hard and nastily on the glove, and then very nearly dribbles onto his stumps

  • POSTED BY MrKricket on | January 11, 2014, 7:42 GMT

    Don't sell Ryan Harris short - he's a very good bowler in the Steyn mould and it may be that Johnson benefited from players relaxing a little when they got away from facing him. A bit like Lillee and Thomson, although Johnson is way more accurate than Thommo ever was. It's a pity Harris' career won't be more than a couple more years at most.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 7:41 GMT

    He did it on too...

    9.6 Johnson to Strauss, OUT, and the bouncer does the trick! It's a quick one and right on line, Strauss can't get out of the way and the ball clearly takes his gloves and flies up in the air, Clarke runs back from the cordon to take a simple chance AJ Strauss c Clarke b Johnson 30 (90m 60b 4x4 0x6) SR: 50.0 31.3 Johnson to Bell, no run, hello - there's a bouncer which has actually threatened. Rare to see from Johnson. Bell's struck on the glove, and they both glare 47.4 Johnson to Bell, no run, cracking bouncer now, dead on line and Bell gets it down to the leg side but didn't look comfortable 57.4 Johnson to Flintoff, no run, beaten by a brute that lifts off a length! 83.3 Johnson to Broad, 1 run, gets this shorter ball on target and Broad fends it down to fine leg. Nasty delivery 5.3 Johnson to Bell, OUT, gone! Terrific bouncer from Johnson, on line and made Bell play at shoulder height, he's really only fended and the ball runs off the face of the bat. etc

  • POSTED BY Barnesy4444 on | January 11, 2014, 7:38 GMT

    Johnson ripped through the batting in the first 2 tests and was a major influence on the series. But he didn't play in England and the only batsman who got on top of the Aussies was Bell. So to say the only reason Harris and Siddle got wickets was because of Johnson is false.

    These 4 1/2 bowlers work very well together. The addition of Lyon is a major bonus. It's no coincidence that Johnson ripped through the batting in Brisbane only after Lyon came on and stopped the scoring.

  • POSTED BY Unomaas on | January 11, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    Yes. I would agree with you. But I also can't discount the possibility of Johnson's bowling being a novelty act or one hit wonder. England were caught unawares by a bowler with his tail up but other teams will analyse the footage, identify weaknesses and then seek to expoit Johnson's weaknesses and so blunt the threat that he presents. I always use Ajantha Mendis to illustrate the point. Mystery bowler who had so many batsman afraid for their wicket but when the video analysts finally decoded the mystery/potency to his bowling, the threat of Mendis became forgotten and batsmen treated him with impunity.

    I enjoyed MJ's bowling during the ashes, but I'm rather adopting a wait and see policy before I start subscribing to the "MJ is the best nasty fast bowler in the world".

  • POSTED BY Protears on | January 11, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    I can concur that Johnson put together a really good series for the first time in over 5 years and deserves credit for it and the work.

    @xtrafalgarx - Best attack in the world? how did you lose so convincingly in India and England with the same guys? Lyon was dropped in India because Shikhar Dharwan, Pujara and Kholi decimated him, Xavier Doherty came in and got much the same punishment. Starc and Pattingson were ineffective and Ryan Harris broke down. In England all including Johnson were inneffective while James Anderson was devastating, Agar got in ahead of Lyon that says a lot.

    Best attacks don't lose 8 tests in a year. Furthermore if Pattingson and Starc are the future, they are on the sidelines while Johnson, Siddle and Harris all getting on in years are playing. Cummins has back injuries and fractures he is about as done as it gets. Everyone else is unproven.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    Johnson will forever be a waste of tallent, this series just showed again what could have been if he used the thing between his ears. Physical abbility was never nor is it now a problem. But it took him a better part of 11 years in senior cricket to figure out his game.

    I think Morkel may suprise everyone this series. He doesn'thave a mean streak that would have helped him a keep onto the new ball and b would not make it so easy to underestimate. If he wasn't first change and gets to use the second new ball (even when he did the damage to the middle order) against the lower order He may have gotten his average down to below 25. As it is Steyn and Philander get to bowl with the new ball and mop up the lower order with the new ball. Leaving morkel typically bowling only to 3,4,5,6 batsmen and hardly ever, 9, 10 11 to improve the average. Same can be said for brett Lee. I think some of the kallis comments by the ausies are going to upset him enough to find that mean streak.

  • POSTED BY disco_bob on | January 11, 2014, 6:42 GMT

    Mitchell Johnson: The Tenderiser.

  • POSTED BY Unifex on | January 11, 2014, 6:37 GMT

    It's an interesting theory, Sanjay, but it faces the problem that Harris and Siddle got the early wickets in Brisbane and Adelaide, and Johnson didn't wipe the floor with the top order in those games, rather th elower order. He charged through after the others - including the estimable Lyon - had opened a breach.

  • POSTED BY neo-galactico on | January 11, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    Personally, looking forward to AB vs Johnson. AB comes across as a fearless, daring batsman I sincerely doubt he'd allow Johnson to scare him, in fact his ego might compel him to be severe on Johnson. If such a tactic works Mitch just might go haywire once more, we all know he can be very fragile.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 6:09 GMT

    Good insight, Sanjay. The question on everyone's mind is whether MJ will be able to retain this intensity for longer periods (multiple series) without breaking down. Yes, the Ashes series went through without any incidents but I am doubtful, considering his record with injuries and erratic form.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 6:05 GMT

    I have a question: why has Ishant Sharma not got success by bowing short pitched balls?

  • POSTED BY Rally_Windies on | January 11, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    Mc Grath started that ? really? Ambrose must have sprayed it all over the place ! ! !

  • POSTED BY xtrafalgarx on | January 11, 2014, 5:57 GMT

    What people don't understand is that Australia are not saying they have the best bowlers in the world, they are saying they have the best ATTACK. There is a difference. They have all bases covered, and there are no real weaknesses. They can play the aggressive game, led by Johnson. They can pay the attritional game led by Siddle and Lyon, yet they can also play the seam/swing game led by Harris and Watson. That's what an attack does, they can adapt to any situation and condition.

    SA have 2 of the best fast bowlers in the world, but that doesn't not necessarily make them the best "Attack" in the world. They lack a spinner so they can not always play a holding game, especially with Kallis gone. Steyn can't steam in all day either, so it leaves them vulnerable if one of them have an off day. As we say in Australia, Tahir went the journey, Steyn was tired and Morkel ineffective they went for 500 in a single day.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 5:16 GMT

    @Wajahatt: Bond and Akhtar were injured (or in Akhtar's case suspended) too often to rate. Lee, like Johnson, was fast but leaked runs. Time will tell as Johnson's career pans out who was the better bowler of the two.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 5:14 GMT

    A good analysis Sanjay and I think what this article brings out is the fact that most cricketing nations and its players play a mechanized type of cricket rather than improvising on the field. As most of the bowlers nowadays say, they bowl the good length and wait for the batsmen to get out. If he doesnt then they have no other alternatives. What Johnson did in Australia was not England expected. They expected him to bowl to the left and to the right but not at their ribs and heads. A simple change in plans made their batsmans to activate survival mode and rendered them vulnerable. Now SA might play the pace triplets of Australia better. But we can only confirm that they did so after they have completed the series. Now that everyone has seen what mitch can do, they'll be prepared but how much mentally will be the question. Also, if australia can get Mitch, Cummins, Pattinson and Harris to play in the same match and with the same attitude as Mtch, that would be the litmus test.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    Totally agree with you Theory..!!!!Every Englishman had fear in their eyes while facing Johnson..!!!!The Fear Factor took over and Siddle and Harris took advantage of that..Johnson could not have rediscovered himself without the support, Coaching and encouragement Of Mecdormet...!!!Now the real Litmus test of Aus would be against SA..!!!Steyn and Co Against Clarke and Co :D

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 5:04 GMT

    South African batting will surely be blown away by Mitch and co. It is a given. It is how the Australian batsmen play that will decide the series. They can take a leaf out of the Indians book. Young Indian batsmen - most of them on their first tour to SA- made life tough for the SA bowlers by leaving balls over the stumps and outside the offstump. This tired the Proteas bowlers would lose venom after that, since they don't reverse swing the ball much. The Aussies need to be patient upfront. The likes of Chris Rogers and Warner should exercise some amount of caution and not try to go bang bang. Once the shine is off this SA attack struggles and without Kallis , they are going to struggle that much more. What say greatest game?

  • POSTED BY DickCam on | January 11, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    @Anand Kumar, absolutely spot on about Siddle and Kasper! Both good at riding on someone else's coat-tails.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    @Anand Kumar: Why not Johnson, Pattinson, Cummins, Siddle and Lyon as the bowling lineup (with some backup from Steve Smith who gets good turn both ways but needs to work more on getting the ball to actually hit the pitch)? Haddin (or if he retires or is injured, Paine) are good enough to bat 6 and Johnson is good enough to bat 7 if he was asked to show more responsibility as a batsman. Pattinson has a Test batting average of over 30 so is a perfectly capable No 8 and Cummins has far more potential as a batsman than his very limited First Class career reveals. 6 specialist batsmen are not required if you can bowl the opposition out for less than 250 most of the time.

  • POSTED BY henchart on | January 11, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    Let us see how Johnson fares against Amla,Ab ,Faf and Smith who wont hesitate to counter attack. SA v/s Aus -Lip smacking series in the offing.SA hold a slight edge since Aus batting isnt as strong as SA's and last time round there they were bundled for 40 odd runs.

  • POSTED BY Wajahatt on | January 11, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    You forgot mentioning Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee and Shane Bond in your analysis. If we are going to make a team which includes 'real' fast bowlers of past decade Mitchell Johnson will not even make it. :)

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    Spot on! I'm disappointed with Morkel specially. He never wants to give the intimidating stare. Test cricket it at its best when there are intense contests. As steyn once said, mix morkel with some anger, he will be better than steyn.

  • POSTED BY Tano1 on | January 11, 2014, 4:09 GMT

    "Glenn McGrath, a truly great fast bowler of our generation, started a new trend in cricket sometime in the mid-'90s. He bowled a narrow channel outside the off stump and rarely did anything else." - How can you call bowling the channel outside off a new trend created by Glenn McGrath. Anyone who has played or watched the game knows that this is a fundamental and basic skill in the art of bowling. Really poor observation!

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 3:43 GMT

    I fully agree with Sanjay bhais analysis of the ashes debacle of the english side. Whenever theres an out and out fast bowler who can put fear in the minds of the batsmen that always seems to work. Remember Shane Bond he could always do that and Mitch did just that and the english batsmen were found wanting. As rightly pointed out by Sanjay just take Mitch out and put any other bowler and the score line would be way different. I still think South Africa has the best bowling line up and Australia could be the second best when Pattinson comes back. it would be great to see the combo of Pattinson and Johnson against Steyn and Morkel . I bet the batsmen the world over wont like it one bit. I hope young bowlers do pick up this cue and work towards it aiming for the rib cage that is what its all about. And thanks a ton Sanjay bhai for your excellent and indepth analysis of the Ashes

  • POSTED BY android_user on | January 11, 2014, 3:33 GMT

    Johnson, Pattinson, Cummins and Lyon would be one hell of an attack. Siddle has probably benefited from Johnson but looks almost ineffective without Johnson or so it seems. Siddle has never been an impact bowler but one of those who just does enough to retain his place in the side much like Kasprowicz keeping Lee out

  • POSTED BY VickGower on | January 11, 2014, 3:26 GMT

    Superb analysis. I agree.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 3:23 GMT

    Spot on assessment. In the 80s when we took the field against West Indies the match was lost, the only point of interest was whether it was a respectable margin. Imagine Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Garner operating in tandem. Each was as good and intimidating as Mitch. To be fair Mitch, Harris and Siddle in Australia will be damn tough for South Africa too.

  • POSTED BY GRVJPR on | January 11, 2014, 3:12 GMT

    There was nothing special about Johnson's bowling. It was a classic case of most ordinary batting line up with chicken hearts.

  • POSTED BY DickCam on | January 11, 2014, 3:09 GMT

    Johnson certainly led the way with his aggression, which I agree the England batsmen were not expecting. Will be a different story against the Proteas, however with the possibility of a fit and firing Pattinson, and maybe even Cummins and Stark, batsmen on both sides will have a tough time. I wonder if the Aussies will remind Graeme Smith that Johnson broke his finger, twice? Bring it on!

  • POSTED BY DickCam on | January 11, 2014, 3:09 GMT

    Johnson certainly led the way with his aggression, which I agree the England batsmen were not expecting. Will be a different story against the Proteas, however with the possibility of a fit and firing Pattinson, and maybe even Cummins and Stark, batsmen on both sides will have a tough time. I wonder if the Aussies will remind Graeme Smith that Johnson broke his finger, twice? Bring it on!

  • POSTED BY GRVJPR on | January 11, 2014, 3:12 GMT

    There was nothing special about Johnson's bowling. It was a classic case of most ordinary batting line up with chicken hearts.

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 3:23 GMT

    Spot on assessment. In the 80s when we took the field against West Indies the match was lost, the only point of interest was whether it was a respectable margin. Imagine Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Garner operating in tandem. Each was as good and intimidating as Mitch. To be fair Mitch, Harris and Siddle in Australia will be damn tough for South Africa too.

  • POSTED BY VickGower on | January 11, 2014, 3:26 GMT

    Superb analysis. I agree.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | January 11, 2014, 3:33 GMT

    Johnson, Pattinson, Cummins and Lyon would be one hell of an attack. Siddle has probably benefited from Johnson but looks almost ineffective without Johnson or so it seems. Siddle has never been an impact bowler but one of those who just does enough to retain his place in the side much like Kasprowicz keeping Lee out

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 3:43 GMT

    I fully agree with Sanjay bhais analysis of the ashes debacle of the english side. Whenever theres an out and out fast bowler who can put fear in the minds of the batsmen that always seems to work. Remember Shane Bond he could always do that and Mitch did just that and the english batsmen were found wanting. As rightly pointed out by Sanjay just take Mitch out and put any other bowler and the score line would be way different. I still think South Africa has the best bowling line up and Australia could be the second best when Pattinson comes back. it would be great to see the combo of Pattinson and Johnson against Steyn and Morkel . I bet the batsmen the world over wont like it one bit. I hope young bowlers do pick up this cue and work towards it aiming for the rib cage that is what its all about. And thanks a ton Sanjay bhai for your excellent and indepth analysis of the Ashes

  • POSTED BY Tano1 on | January 11, 2014, 4:09 GMT

    "Glenn McGrath, a truly great fast bowler of our generation, started a new trend in cricket sometime in the mid-'90s. He bowled a narrow channel outside the off stump and rarely did anything else." - How can you call bowling the channel outside off a new trend created by Glenn McGrath. Anyone who has played or watched the game knows that this is a fundamental and basic skill in the art of bowling. Really poor observation!

  • POSTED BY on | January 11, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    Spot on! I'm disappointed with Morkel specially. He never wants to give the intimidating stare. Test cricket it at its best when there are intense contests. As steyn once said, mix morkel with some anger, he will be better than steyn.

  • POSTED BY Wajahatt on | January 11, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    You forgot mentioning Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee and Shane Bond in your analysis. If we are going to make a team which includes 'real' fast bowlers of past decade Mitchell Johnson will not even make it. :)

  • POSTED BY henchart on | January 11, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    Let us see how Johnson fares against Amla,Ab ,Faf and Smith who wont hesitate to counter attack. SA v/s Aus -Lip smacking series in the offing.SA hold a slight edge since Aus batting isnt as strong as SA's and last time round there they were bundled for 40 odd runs.