February 16, 2014

The Mitchell Johnson effect

Whole batting line-ups have been laid to waste by the raw pace and confidence of Australia's fast-bowling leader
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Mitchell Johnson: injuring bodies, minds and careers © Getty Images

So it is not just England. Phew, thinks Alastair Cook. After all, has one derailed cricket tour ever had such a fallout? The casualties are littered across the gardens of England - Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann, Matt Prior, Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen. It is quite a list that fell foul to the Mitchell Johnson effect. And it was not just people. It was a whole team method, a strategy and philosophy that had brought England success. The casualties are endless.

For a while now the game has been beset by the 135-142kph bracket. Exhausted bowlers, shunted across continents to play various formats of a sport, unable to resist its commercial opportunities, have settled for something that gets them through the day. Then along comes Mitch and a stellar collection of English and South African batsmen are left whimpering in defeat. From never having had it so good - bats, boundaries and the DRS - esteemed batsmen are whispering in dressing-room corners about the throat ball and its corollaries. At last! With a bit of luck, Johnson will inspire others to bowl fast, really fast, for this unique and thrilling skill is an essential part of cricket's appeal.

Johnson's extraordinary match in Centurion is simply an extension of his extraordinary matches in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Twelve wickets, valuable runs and a stunning catch amounts to a one-man show. Materially, of course it is not, but so mighty is the Johnson effect that without him one cannot imagine outcomes anywhere close. Australia are smashing good teams, thus the conclusions are unavoidable.

South Africa bowled 194 overs in the match and claimed 14 wickets for 687 runs. The Australians bowled 120 overs, taking 20 wickets and conceding only 406 runs. The collateral damage is alarming. For one thing, Michael Clarke's team will arrive in Port Elizabeth a whole lot fresher.

Graeme Smith admitted confusion but denied mental scarring. However, the stress related to such a result cannot be underestimated. Bouncing back from defeat is one thing, bouncing back from humiliation is quite another. Ask England. The fear and the self-doubt that come from it are a real issue for Smith's team. Though physical injury was somehow avoided, bad blows were taken by the batsmen and aggravating niggles emerged amongst the bowlers.

In turn, the Australians are rampant. There is something of the bully in a cricket team that boasts a proper fast bowler. From Johnson's performances alone come a soaring confidence and a peacock strut. Peter Siddle laughed at Robin Peterson's rasping square cut for four, knowing that his comeuppance, one way or the other, was nigh. It was the other as it happened, not Johnson but Siddle who burst an unplayable shooter through the Peterson defences. It has been a bad couple of weeks for chaps who are sons of Peter. Alviro and Robin are in the selector's sights. Kevin is out of view, for good they say - which, even ten days on, seems ridiculous and unbelievable. And all because of the Johnson effect.

It is well documented that Dennis Lillee played the main part in the Johnson regeneration. First the approach, then the position of bowling arm at release, then the use of the right arm in the delivery and follow-through. These are the technical things. Then there are the tactical things: what are we looking for in a batsman, what can we smell? Does swing matter? Not much if you bowl at 150kph and hit good lengths and lines consistently. Where should the bouncer be aimed and what is its purpose? How to control the new ball and profit from the old one. How to change angles. These are amongst the things Lillee and Johnson will have considered and improved. When Lillee invited chief selector John Inverarity to the nets at Hale School in Perth last year he knew his man was ready. Inverarity reacted immediately that Johnson was back. What neither of them could have known was just how quickly Johnson would reward those who had kept the faith.

It is a long time since one fast bowler caused such destruction. Think of skill and intimidation perfectly combined to ruin careers. West Indies did it as a group. Michael Holding did it on his own at The Oval in 1976. Lillee and Thomson did this together but never alone, at least not to such effect. Curtly Ambrose took 7 for 1 in Perth in 1992-93 and did something equally appalling to England a year later in Trinidad. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis had their moments. Allan Donald was a sight in full flow but never had quite such figures so often.

You see where we are going here. Johnson's blitzkriegs are up there with anything ever produced. The "Demon" Spofforth started it all and the terrifying Johnson is continuing his legacy. In the last six Test matches he has taken 49 English and South African wickets at 13 each.

South Africa must find a way of fending him off and then playing some strokes of authority. At the moment, Johnson holds all the cards. He feels not a jot of pain, suffers not a moment of self-doubt. It is a heady place. Like Cook before him, Smith has the chance to lead the way against the new ball. But Ryan Harris is hardly a mug and finished the recent Ashes giving Cook as hard a time as the one handed out by Johnson. Smith must watch for that too. This is a monumental task, perhaps the most challenging of his career. He has the courage and the will but does his team? Can he resist the collapse of a method?

Rodney Hogg, who bowled fast and well for Australia in the period during and post Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket - a period of extreme fast bowling around the world - reckons that Johnson and Harris are right up there with Thomson and Lillee. Enough said. Good luck Graeme, go well.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Back-Foot-Cringe on February 17, 2014, 15:03 GMT

    This has been a heady, exhilarating ride since that first Ashes test in Brisbane in November, when the MJ train left the station at express speed. He's still on the track & not slowing down. It's a run for the ages & will never be forgotten by those of us witnessing it live, on TV, & on the internet (like myself in the USA).

    But the REAL story is how Mitchell Johnson has bulled his way back into cricket at age 32 after being down & out for so long due to serious injury &, even more debilitating, an extended crisis of confidence.

    For me, this is the most compelling facet of this amazing unfolding saga.

    That said, we approach Port Elizabeth. I can't see the Saffers falling like dominoes this time. Steyn is no spent force. Not by a long shot. ICC rankings notwithstanding (he's a FAR better bowler than Philander in ALL conditions), he's the best in the world until MJ continues his hot streak for an extended period. Morkel no chump, either. We'll see.

    Go Oz & MJ. From an Ozzie.

  • on February 16, 2014, 21:24 GMT

    Well I'm just happy for Mitch himself. After being touted a once in a generation talent by Lillee as a teenager he has subsequently had a long run of ups and downs, some of those downs were pretty obviously very steep dips indeed. But finally here he is, 10,12, 15 years on from being talent spotted by the great DK, he has arrived at his potential. It won't last forever, but another 30 odd tests like this will add a lot of wickets to his tally and more importantly Mitch will be able to look back over his career with the satisfaction of having fulfilled his promise and having brought great entertainment to all of us!

  • pat_one_back on February 16, 2014, 21:22 GMT

    There are 2 fundamental improvements in Johnson's bowling this summer, his much spoken of accuracy and his consistency in pace. I don't think he's really any faster than previously but his strict use by Clarke in short spells, irrespective of wickets is a huge improvement over the Ponting era MJ. This tactic relies on discipline across the attack, Harris is no reprieve for batsmen just a slightly different challenge, meanwhile Mitch stays fresh and comes back warm whilst Siddle & Lyon busily tighten screws at the 'containing end'. More than great individual bowling it takes great support & shrewd captaincy for an individual bowler to dominate like Mitch has this summer.

  • razorack on February 19, 2014, 16:41 GMT

    Well no doubt MJ has become a better bowler. his speed accuracy and consistency have all gone up a level. But to simplify it as just this is being very unfair to the rest of the team. The captain has been a complete revelation to me, his tactics have been extraordinary from his field placements to his exemplary use of his best bowler MJ. No doubt this has come from consultation with boof Lehmann during pre match planning. I have no doubt all teams "go to school" on their opposition, but imo there is a science AND an art to this aspect. Micky arthur was all science Boof brings the art back into it. Like all good coaches he realizes that it is really important to understand your players and what makes them tick, equally he has a real ability to understand the opposition players and find not just their technical flaws but also their psychological weakness. he is the new breed of coach in cricket. The bowlers supporting MJ have also played their part. Harris and Siddle are to be congrat

  • Shaggy076 on February 19, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    AltafPatel; I did some research and it appears in the first test Morkel bowled a higher percentage of short balls than Johnson. Steyn bowled a similar percentage. As such this bodyline call seems to be way off the mark, the only difference with Mitch bowling a short ball compared to Morkel is he is very good at it, and it seems the pathetic spectators such as yourself begrudge that Johnson is simply better at it. I've never seen any international sport where you ban someone simply because they are too good. Also, I believe there was a patch in the last series where Broad and Andeson had a crack at turning the tables, Morkel bowled a couple of good bouncers at Johnson in this test, again Johnson is just better at bowling it and better at facing it - A similar response from South Africa will just play into Australias hands.

  • Tumbarumbar on February 19, 2014, 2:14 GMT

    The posters suggesting that the Australian batsmen will soon face 'bodyline' clearly have no idea what leg theory was. It consisted of fast short pitched balls directed at a leg stump line with fielders clustered behind square. As only two fielders can be behind square and batsmen now have helmets, arm guards, decent boxes, decent gloves, thigh pads and arm guards bodyline is a thing of the past. Johnson's short deliveries had batsmen fending toward slip while the short leg catches were taken from balls played off the hip. Besides, a fast medium bowler trying to bowl as Johnson does would be cut and pulled to ribbons.

  • TheBigBoodha on February 18, 2014, 23:53 GMT

    AltaPatel, so today's game is more analysed and planned, and because Australia are using body line they won't be successful long? If you actually paid any attention to the team you'd know that the very reason for their current success is their brains trust - Clarke, Lehman and McDermott. They are way ahead of any other team in terms of smarts. That above all else is why they have turned the corner. They got rid of Arthur, who just didn't gel with the team, and the turnaround has been massive.

  • gujratwalla on February 18, 2014, 13:32 GMT

    There was no need to run comparison between Clarke and de Villiers because what i argued about was Clarke being the ONLY world class batsman around!Besides de Villiers there are good cases for Sangakarra,Hashim Amla,Kohli,Jayawardene etc.Kallis was a class in himself but it would not have escaped the discerning cricket fan that later in his career he too become vulernable to the short pitched ball.As i said before How good a batsman is against Johnson can only be found out when he faces him.De Villiers has played him better than anyone in his team but remember the new English find Stokes too played him excellently even on the broken Perth pitch!

  • Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on February 18, 2014, 12:33 GMT

    @AltafPatel Australia wont have a problem with short pitched bowling on fast tracks, just stick with spin on dustbowls that's where they become unstuck.

  • MasterBlaster100 on February 18, 2014, 12:33 GMT

    I suspect Johnson's wrist position is behind the chaos he is causing.

    In kph he is quick but not as quick as Lee and Akhtar. But with a round arm delivery and flicking the wrist forward at point of release he may be skimming the ball off the pitch. Rather like when boys make stones bounce off water.

    I'd be interested to hear if the reaction time for the batter is shorter with Johnson because the ball is in contact with the pitch for less time (which is more relevant measure of pace than how fast it is moving when the bowler lets the ball go)

  • Back-Foot-Cringe on February 17, 2014, 15:03 GMT

    This has been a heady, exhilarating ride since that first Ashes test in Brisbane in November, when the MJ train left the station at express speed. He's still on the track & not slowing down. It's a run for the ages & will never be forgotten by those of us witnessing it live, on TV, & on the internet (like myself in the USA).

    But the REAL story is how Mitchell Johnson has bulled his way back into cricket at age 32 after being down & out for so long due to serious injury &, even more debilitating, an extended crisis of confidence.

    For me, this is the most compelling facet of this amazing unfolding saga.

    That said, we approach Port Elizabeth. I can't see the Saffers falling like dominoes this time. Steyn is no spent force. Not by a long shot. ICC rankings notwithstanding (he's a FAR better bowler than Philander in ALL conditions), he's the best in the world until MJ continues his hot streak for an extended period. Morkel no chump, either. We'll see.

    Go Oz & MJ. From an Ozzie.

  • on February 16, 2014, 21:24 GMT

    Well I'm just happy for Mitch himself. After being touted a once in a generation talent by Lillee as a teenager he has subsequently had a long run of ups and downs, some of those downs were pretty obviously very steep dips indeed. But finally here he is, 10,12, 15 years on from being talent spotted by the great DK, he has arrived at his potential. It won't last forever, but another 30 odd tests like this will add a lot of wickets to his tally and more importantly Mitch will be able to look back over his career with the satisfaction of having fulfilled his promise and having brought great entertainment to all of us!

  • pat_one_back on February 16, 2014, 21:22 GMT

    There are 2 fundamental improvements in Johnson's bowling this summer, his much spoken of accuracy and his consistency in pace. I don't think he's really any faster than previously but his strict use by Clarke in short spells, irrespective of wickets is a huge improvement over the Ponting era MJ. This tactic relies on discipline across the attack, Harris is no reprieve for batsmen just a slightly different challenge, meanwhile Mitch stays fresh and comes back warm whilst Siddle & Lyon busily tighten screws at the 'containing end'. More than great individual bowling it takes great support & shrewd captaincy for an individual bowler to dominate like Mitch has this summer.

  • razorack on February 19, 2014, 16:41 GMT

    Well no doubt MJ has become a better bowler. his speed accuracy and consistency have all gone up a level. But to simplify it as just this is being very unfair to the rest of the team. The captain has been a complete revelation to me, his tactics have been extraordinary from his field placements to his exemplary use of his best bowler MJ. No doubt this has come from consultation with boof Lehmann during pre match planning. I have no doubt all teams "go to school" on their opposition, but imo there is a science AND an art to this aspect. Micky arthur was all science Boof brings the art back into it. Like all good coaches he realizes that it is really important to understand your players and what makes them tick, equally he has a real ability to understand the opposition players and find not just their technical flaws but also their psychological weakness. he is the new breed of coach in cricket. The bowlers supporting MJ have also played their part. Harris and Siddle are to be congrat

  • Shaggy076 on February 19, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    AltafPatel; I did some research and it appears in the first test Morkel bowled a higher percentage of short balls than Johnson. Steyn bowled a similar percentage. As such this bodyline call seems to be way off the mark, the only difference with Mitch bowling a short ball compared to Morkel is he is very good at it, and it seems the pathetic spectators such as yourself begrudge that Johnson is simply better at it. I've never seen any international sport where you ban someone simply because they are too good. Also, I believe there was a patch in the last series where Broad and Andeson had a crack at turning the tables, Morkel bowled a couple of good bouncers at Johnson in this test, again Johnson is just better at bowling it and better at facing it - A similar response from South Africa will just play into Australias hands.

  • Tumbarumbar on February 19, 2014, 2:14 GMT

    The posters suggesting that the Australian batsmen will soon face 'bodyline' clearly have no idea what leg theory was. It consisted of fast short pitched balls directed at a leg stump line with fielders clustered behind square. As only two fielders can be behind square and batsmen now have helmets, arm guards, decent boxes, decent gloves, thigh pads and arm guards bodyline is a thing of the past. Johnson's short deliveries had batsmen fending toward slip while the short leg catches were taken from balls played off the hip. Besides, a fast medium bowler trying to bowl as Johnson does would be cut and pulled to ribbons.

  • TheBigBoodha on February 18, 2014, 23:53 GMT

    AltaPatel, so today's game is more analysed and planned, and because Australia are using body line they won't be successful long? If you actually paid any attention to the team you'd know that the very reason for their current success is their brains trust - Clarke, Lehman and McDermott. They are way ahead of any other team in terms of smarts. That above all else is why they have turned the corner. They got rid of Arthur, who just didn't gel with the team, and the turnaround has been massive.

  • gujratwalla on February 18, 2014, 13:32 GMT

    There was no need to run comparison between Clarke and de Villiers because what i argued about was Clarke being the ONLY world class batsman around!Besides de Villiers there are good cases for Sangakarra,Hashim Amla,Kohli,Jayawardene etc.Kallis was a class in himself but it would not have escaped the discerning cricket fan that later in his career he too become vulernable to the short pitched ball.As i said before How good a batsman is against Johnson can only be found out when he faces him.De Villiers has played him better than anyone in his team but remember the new English find Stokes too played him excellently even on the broken Perth pitch!

  • Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on February 18, 2014, 12:33 GMT

    @AltafPatel Australia wont have a problem with short pitched bowling on fast tracks, just stick with spin on dustbowls that's where they become unstuck.

  • MasterBlaster100 on February 18, 2014, 12:33 GMT

    I suspect Johnson's wrist position is behind the chaos he is causing.

    In kph he is quick but not as quick as Lee and Akhtar. But with a round arm delivery and flicking the wrist forward at point of release he may be skimming the ball off the pitch. Rather like when boys make stones bounce off water.

    I'd be interested to hear if the reaction time for the batter is shorter with Johnson because the ball is in contact with the pitch for less time (which is more relevant measure of pace than how fast it is moving when the bowler lets the ball go)

  • AltafPatel on February 18, 2014, 11:18 GMT

    Aus should realize what their inexperienced batsmen will do when rest of the world will start bodyline against them.

  • AltafPatel on February 18, 2014, 11:17 GMT

    Aus might be thinking their negative bodyline bowling for desperate comeback to test cricket will reach the height again but should realize that today's game has been more analyzing and planned. See what time shows next in rest of the tour.

  • Not_Another_Keybored_Expert on February 18, 2014, 9:29 GMT

    @ greatest_game you have either a very short memory or a very selective one I suspect the latter, Michael Clarke was the top rated test batsman last year and he is having a form slump, saying he is not in the same class as the other two is ridiculous and just shows your bias, he has been found out a couple of times by the short ball but he did overcome it in Aus and hit Broad out of the attack(while on he's way to a hundred) when Broad tried to bowl short. He will find form again, a player as good as Clarke always does.

  • Forza_Scuderia on February 18, 2014, 9:28 GMT

    Although I rate AB de Villiers very highly, I would say that over the last few years or so Clarke has been the standout batsmen in Tests with de Villiers a close second. I don't think there is anybody who has been as lucrative as him over that period.

    Since 2008 I think Clarke has scored a 1000+ runs in a calendar year on 4 occasions with de Villiers delivering 3.

    I rate Sangakkara very highly too.

  • pat_one_back on February 18, 2014, 9:15 GMT

    @Greatest_Game, coming off a bit desperate, clinging on to any defensible ranking you can find, AB is a very fine bat it's undisputed but very childish to beat down Clarke in an effort to prove it. Many would rate Clarke over AB, his ranking points have been earned in far tougher circumstances carrying significantly greater responsibility than AB who's sat behind a great attack and stable top order.

    You're recollection of AB playing MJ just proves you live in a dream world, how are AB's bruises? Try watching this game you find so great, wait that might mess with your delusions of grandeur.

  • testcric4ever on February 18, 2014, 8:36 GMT

    @ thozar And where exactly do you think MJ started his resurgence as an aggressive fast bowler? http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2013/content/story/638072.html

  • dunger.bob on February 18, 2014, 8:24 GMT

    @ Greatest_Game : Clarke is in a bit of a form slump at the moment. Many batsmen would be still be fairly satisfied with his returns in in the last 4 tests but for him, it's a slump. He started the southern summer with a hundred in each of the first two Ashes tests but has tailed off since then. His hundred in Brisbane was a piece of work. In the context of the game it was decisive. .. It was just beautiful. And that's what he can do on just about any pitch, against anyone in any game situation. When he's in form.

    Time will tell who comes out with the best record but frankly, to me at least, it doesn't actually matter anyway. They're both excellent batsmen with different strengths and weaknesses and both are great to watch when they're hard at work.

    All in all, I think you were a tad harsh in your assessment of Clarke.

  • Shaggy076 on February 18, 2014, 6:42 GMT

    thozar; In those 6 tests there is a 7-for on the flat, slow, low Adelaide oval. THe MCG was also very benign.

  • Shaggy076 on February 18, 2014, 6:40 GMT

    Greatest_Game; Yes Clarke has really struggled with the short balls from Morkel and Steyn, he only has two double tons and a 150 from the last 6 test against South Africa.

  • Shaggy076 on February 18, 2014, 4:58 GMT

    gujratwalla; Clarke got out to one short ball to Broad. In his last 6 tests against the worlds best pace attack he has scored two double centuries and a 150 on a difficult pitch. You would have thought if he was susceptible to pace bowling Steyn and Morkel would have had a better record against him. AB is world class but so is Clarke.

  • Greatest_Game on February 18, 2014, 2:31 GMT

    @ सुधीर देवली seems lost about the realities of cricket. He writes "In this day and age after the departure of Kallis there is only one world class batsman and that is Michael Clarke."

    Are you really serious? AB de Villiers took on Johnson and handled him like any other bowler - even swatting him for 6. He is far and away the best batsman in the world right now, and his play at centurion had all commentators agreeing that he is in a class of his own. de Villiers made Johnson look quite ordinary.

    Michael Clarke gets out to the short ball from Stuart Broad, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel etc. Its his weakness. He would not last 2 minutes against Johnson. Clarke would leave the field on a stretcher.

    There is a VERY good reason why AB de Villiers is ranked as the top test and ODI batsman by the ICC, and Clarke is #8 in tests and nowhere in ODIs: because de Villiers IS, by far, the best. Kumar Sangakkara is close behind, Clarke is not anywhere near their class - and never will be.

  • JJJake on February 18, 2014, 1:07 GMT

    Good article. With things going the batsman's way of late. Like The chunky/springy bats and all the protective gear. MJ, will have inspired a new generation of express pace bowlers. As well as those in the Australian side and those trying get into it.

  • on February 18, 2014, 1:02 GMT

    MJ success comes from all the things people have said like fast, accurate and intimidating. But his success also comes from having the right support bowlers. If the Australian attack was bleeding runs from the other end, he would a lot less effective. The fact that Harris, Siddle and Lyon can keep the pressure on by attack the stumps and are always looking likely. When MJ bowles, the volume gets turned up to 11 and wickets fall.

    Great to watch.

  • CurrentPresident on February 17, 2014, 23:32 GMT

    Well said - John and Peter have a family feud going...

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 17, 2014, 21:42 GMT

    @gujratwalla Yeah, AB is definitely the best bat out. The rest of the top class batsmen are a step below, and there are a few of them. Plus he's the wicket keeper. It's ridiculous really. SA are busy trying to find another JK and seemingly forgetting they still have a guy that plays the role of 2 players. With JK in the team you didn't have the power of 12 men, you had the power of 13. Now you're down to 12. Unfortunately JP, Peterson and McLaren count as 1.5 players so their selectors have shot themselves in the foot and gone with a 10.5 player squad, when if they went with specialists they'd have the power of 12. There are lots of WK/batsmen but there's only one guy who's a WK and the best batsman in the world, and SA are wasting that advantage terribly.

  • thozar on February 17, 2014, 21:13 GMT

    Well said Prabhakar Muthukrishnan. The Johnson express will crash and derail when it lands in India that people will forget that this train ever had its run for a while. Western authors are so fickle, this same Mitchell Johnson was considered useless for a year or so and was the laughing stock for several years. All of a sudden he has 6 good tests and he is the best ever. lol. To me any fast bowler who cannot perform outside helpful conditions is mediocre. That is the difference between the likes of Steyn and Johnson, the same difference between Holding and Lillee (3 wickets in Pakistan at 100 runs apiece, lol, fast track bully like Johnson).

  • thozar on February 17, 2014, 21:02 GMT

    lol, the guy has had just 6 good test matches, 5 of them against a mediocre batting line-up and 1 against a waning one and all of a sudden he is the best since sliced bread. Aussie fans like this author should remember that for a fast bowler to be judged the best, he has to perform in the subcontinent. Holding did that, Kapil did that, Wasim and Waqar did that, McGrath did that, and Steyn did that. Even Zaheer has been doing that for a while. That is why they are greats. This Johnson is just good at destroying feeble batting line-ups on helpful surfaces. If the OZ bowlers are so great, why did they leave with their tails behind their backs against India when their great team got thrashed 4-0? They even lost to England in England.

  • gujratwalla on February 17, 2014, 18:37 GMT

    Enjoyable article Mike! There is nothing more spectacular in cricket than a genuine fast bowler thundering into bowl at a batsman with the air full of tension and a sense of explosion.I still remember the sight of a totally raw and wild Lillee in 1972 and the way the English batsmen were stunned by his pace.I cannot type Hindi on my ipad here so i will like to ask that person who said that Michael Clarke is the only world class batsman in this day and age that has he forgotten one A.B. de Villiers?I rate him far better than Clarke who is suspect against the short ball,being exposed by Broad,and i do not believe he can handle Johnson if he had to face him.De Villiers is the best batsman around today in all type of conditions against all type of bowlers.

  • 2929paul on February 17, 2014, 18:00 GMT

    Where does Nicholas say anything about KP being at blame or a scapegoat or a failure? He says he was part of the MJ effect. Part of the effect is that with Johnson wreaking havoc at one end, all the scoring seems to need to be done at the other. And in the case of England, mainly by one batsman, who was the most adept at standing up to MJ. But ironically incapable of spotting obvious plans like two short mid wickets!!

    There's more to it than MJ taking all the wickets. Cricket is a more complex game than that. More than just individuals. That's what some people fail to grasp.

  • on February 17, 2014, 17:49 GMT

    Mitchell Johnson will not be half as effective without the tight support of Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris. Since they are also choking up the runs and bowling tight lines, MJ looks more menacing. Remember, the 2008 series against India guys. The likes of VVS and Sachin feasted on MJ's bowling. In fact, VVS didn't even bother to square up on his stance while facing the left armer over the wicket. That was because the support cast was also bowling poorly.

  • on February 17, 2014, 17:43 GMT

    Well Mark has made his mind up about KP, that he was the villain of the piece. Be that as it may, KP was the only one with the courage and game to take on rampant Johnson. That he couldn't (not least because he got out to Siddle a few times) was what mattered in the end - all England's hopes came crashing down with him. It is true that quite a few batsmen have fattened their records against average bowling. For all his class, Cook seems to have suffered because of the same complacency.

    Smith has lost more than once to the Aussies, but he is a fighter so it'll be interesting to see how he performs. SA will need him to fire if they are to come back. McLaren and Peterson are average cricketers, I'm surprised SA are going for journeymen.

  • on February 17, 2014, 16:08 GMT

    good god.. please.. it's been only 6 tests.. agreed he has destroyed everyone during this streak.. but again.. only 6 tests.. the media is just setting mitch up to be flayed and flogged once he has a mediocre test match.. let the boy do his thing and not hype his play more than what it is..

  • jimmyvida on February 17, 2014, 16:04 GMT

    Did Johnson play in the test series against India in India? Most Indians are judging Johnson in IPL where batsmen are just swinging. Next test series in India Johnson would murder India all by himself. Wait and see.

  • on February 17, 2014, 15:34 GMT

    Mark Nicholas ranks Mitchell Johnson's consistent performances better than that of Wasim Akram, Michael Holding and Dennis Lillee. But lets not forget these bowlers bowled to the best batsmans history of Cricket has ever produced. For instance Holding and Lillee had to bowl to the people like Gavaskar and Boycott. In this day and age after the departure of Kallis there is only one world class batsman and that is Michael Clarke. Others are subproducts of what commerce has done to Cricket. Therefore intimidating batsman with bouncers is much easier in this era than say 10 years ago.

  • SRAM20 on February 17, 2014, 14:44 GMT

    Johnson and Ishant Sharma at one point, were on the same pedestal for the promise they showed but the annoying inconsistency they eventually threw up. Johnson has suddenly turned on a switch that has blasted him into a completely different stratosphere. Can Ishant Sharma turn up with something similar? Hope so.... Every dog has its day. Johnson is having one. Ishant could also have one.

  • Micky.Panda on February 17, 2014, 13:55 GMT

    This raw pace hype is wrong. There have been faster bowlers. There must be additional reasons why batsmen cannot predict the path of the ball in time to play a good shot. Getting the ball more often in the right place must count. Unpredictable bounce maybe a factor. The way the arm and hand delivers the ball may disguise its trajectory. Is it swinging and swinging late. Raw pace my foot. Others have been faster. What are the real reasons that currently make Johnson much harder to play than before?

  • NirajPawar on February 17, 2014, 13:03 GMT

    Fantastic comeback by johnson over the past months, he is running through every batting line up he faces! His hard work and dedication have really paid huge dividends. I really wonder how india plan to play him if the aussies tour india anytime soon!

  • on February 17, 2014, 12:57 GMT

    'whole batting line ups'... the headline deceives the fact we are talking about TWO line-ups in the duration of two back to back series in two 'seamer friendly' environments... hardly the sustained success that warrants putting Johnson in the pantheon of all-time greats... as for, 'It is a long time since one fast bowler caused such destruction'... it is strange that Nicholas has failed to even mention Dale Steyn, who for over half a decade now has been talking wickets at a strike-rate surpassing many actual greats, who has taken 10 wickets in a match 5 times, and lest we forget, alongside Morkel dismissed India for 76 in Ahmedabad (07-08)...when was the last time India were dismissed at home for less than a hundred? Generally this author's hysteria reflects the tendency to magnify achievements by Eng./Ind./Aus. players and overlook other nations (hence, South Africa's sustained excellence (two consecutive) away tour victories in England and Australia are forgotten after one test)

  • dunger.bob on February 17, 2014, 12:56 GMT

    @ Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist: "If Kohli or Pujara were to fend off in an ugly fashion, we would have those pictures aired on TV and Billboards and 'experts' would have churned out article after article describing how we have been exposed."

    I take it you don't think there's been sufficient coverage and exposure about SA's woes at the moment. Have you seen the headlines on some of the cricinfo articles let alone the papers and what not? Maybe you think India would have been flogged more mercilessly by the press simply because it was India. How about England when we flogged them. .. Not enough fall out for you? .. good god man, what more do you want? Public floggings?

  • 2929paul on February 17, 2014, 11:56 GMT

    What I am seeing here is the value of a proper fast bowling coach. One who understands the mechanics of a bowling action and that getting the action right produces not only more pace but accuracy. Of course the player himself must also be dedicated to bowling fast. He must want to listen and learn. To train hard not just on the technique but on the physical and mental demands of fast bowling. Lille and Johnson has been a match made in fast bowling heaven.

    Contrast that with the efforts of the England bowling coaches and Steven Finn. What on earth has been going on there? Obsessed with not conceding runs, they have dropped him, tinkered with him and finally broken him.

    Lesson to be learnt from all of this is for wannabe fast bowlers to find proper fast bowling coaches and to be honest with yourselves: do you really have the desire? Are you prepared to put in the hard yards? I hope so because the cricketing public will pay to watch you all day long.

  • Shaggy076 on February 17, 2014, 11:30 GMT

    its.rachit; I'm just quoting the curator from the last test series. I watched the tests between England and India in India, then Autralian and India the pitches were completely different. I then had a look at the WI vs India and the pitches were not selectively watered then either. We are exposed to IPL and one day series in India but recent test series against Australia the pitches are completely different to all other games I see out of India.

  • its.rachit on February 17, 2014, 11:07 GMT

    @shaggy076 - were you there on the field in India when they were selectively watering the pitch ??? and if mcgrath, steyn, donald culd be successful in the 90s and 2000s, then i dont think your premise holds any truh at all ... i guess these matches happened after the marshall/holding era ... and i guess nobody has to prove anything to anyone ... India are lions at home ... and they dont have to prove that they are bad outside the SC . it has been proved time and again and also today in the most demoralizing fashion for an Indian fan . and honestly, i dont know how much blame can the pitch take for the Indian pacers not being upto scratch ... cos the spinners now are equally bad ... fact of the matter is, India is an ordinary/mediocre cricket team which does well at home and shows flashes of individual brilliance outside the SC . the only period in the past 70 years that India was competitive at the worldstage was between 2001-2008 when almost every1 in the team hit their peak together

  • kharidra on February 17, 2014, 11:07 GMT

    A phenomenon of Fast bowling does not only just produce output in the form of wickets but also has a far reaching impact in terms of outcome that far outweighs the wickets. If 49 wickets is phenomenal performance the 71 more wickets captured to make it 120 wickets for victory is considerable figure that can pale the 49 wicket performance. The outcome of the 49 wicket performance is to be gauged in terms of the uplifting performance to capture the 71 wickets. Add to it the inspired batting partnerships that created adequate totals for victory from slippery situations. Add to it the the margins of victory that can put to shame the just about adequate totals. And it not that there has been no counter strategy, but the phenomenon has a far reaching impact on outcomes that exceeds all inspired counter strategies. It is not to suggest that there will be no such formula but it will need another phenomenal performance in which all the resources resonate to the tune of such inspirational act.

  • on February 17, 2014, 10:27 GMT

    So Nicholas, you are happy MJ is rampagaging with his intimidatory stuff. I want him to take wickets without intimidatory stuff. How many can he get, ten percent. Also Swann did not leave because of him and Pieterson was made a scapegoat. Matt Prior has not been performing well for a long time and if you ask me he is not fit to be in the team w/o his batting. So do not distort history. Australia is on the Moon but they have their failings. In this Test too almost half the side were almost back for 140 runs just as they were in all five Ashes tests. One quality they have in plenty is never say die attitude for which I appreciate them. Do not praise Clarke's Captaincy as he rued his decision in the last Ashes test in England. MC did not play well under RP. The statistics will show it if you care to see.i

  • on February 17, 2014, 10:22 GMT

    Jonson becoming so dangerous at any batsman

  • Shaggy076 on February 17, 2014, 10:19 GMT

    I dont think anyone has to prove anything in India, the days of Holding and Marshall were before India discovered the art of selective watering. Balls from pace bowlers barely carry through to the keeper, you cant get a catch in slips so you can be a great pace bowler but still wont pick up a wicket on these pitches. The sub continent ie Sri Lanka, Bangladesh produce flat tracks but at least sporting. India conditions that have been served up to the Australians, pace bowlers dont have to prove anything. Lets look at Ishant Sharma started young in Australian conditions and proved to be a fine bowler, before being destroyed by toiling away on home decks. He is ridiculed by his country men of no fault of his own. But if we use this criteria ie Indian spinners need to prove themselves abroad well India you will find India have never ever had a great spinner, Kumble would pass as serviceable.

  • on February 17, 2014, 10:06 GMT

    If India plays against him now, their legs will wobble. The ball is coming right throw your throat. Here in India it will just go over the bails. Now imagine Holding, Marshall, Garner, and Andy Roberts bowling in tandem. Little man, Gavaskar taking at them that was awesome. Amla and AB have to drive SA to safety. Keep the ambulance ready, SOS.

  • shanks1967 on February 17, 2014, 10:04 GMT

    India should have borrowed him for one spell yesterday in the morning when they had NZ at 98/5. Neighbour's envy, Owner's pride. Go MJ. Looking forward to see you break some bones and more in the IPL too for KXI Punjab. This is amazing stuff. Lucky Aus. How I dream(cant wish) that India had one instead of a couple of trundlers who call themselves fast or medium fast or slow medium or plain MEDIOCRE.

  • blogossip on February 17, 2014, 10:03 GMT

    good writing Mark, however you are forgetting role of Mcdermott who has really brought the bite back in Aussie attack and has played a huge role in mitch's renaissance!

  • Sixgun on February 17, 2014, 10:03 GMT

    As a test cricket fan, I think Johnson is great for the game. As a South African fan, I think the selectors need a wake up call. There are far too many hangers on in the team. Players like De villiers, Amla, Smith and Steyn have held this team up on their own for far too long and now against a top quality side the others are being found out.Our administrators also need to schedule us more top quality test cricket. Forget these 2 match series every 3 months. You need to practice and play. Big Wake up call needed. Well done to Johnson though.

  • Forza_Scuderia on February 17, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    @dunger.bob, I too find it strange that Siddle's role is being questioned. He as opposed to Morné Morkel is not considered a strike bowler and yet he has better career stats.

    Also, for a few years now I've read; "Steyn this, Steyn that" but Ryan Harris is right up there with him. Fair enough he takes 1 less wicket per test match but his economy rate is better. This builds pressure and allows the other bowlers to attack.

    Personally, I don't rate Philander highly at all because if conditions don't suit he is relegated to a holding bowler as evidenced in Australia and now in Centurion. Darryl Cullinan shares a similar view.

    Presently I'd have to give the best bowling attack to Australia, what should be more worrying for the opposition is that the batsmen are coming to the party now with everybody in the top 6 sporting ever increasing averages and a propensity to counter attack by scoring big regardless of match situation. This Aussie side is brimming with confidence.

  • Thegimp on February 17, 2014, 9:22 GMT

    According to the vast majority of comments on the site, Mitch wont be a proven great until he does it a subcontinent pitches. Does that mean subcontinent batsmen won't be considered great until they average over 50 on SA, Aust, Eng, NZ and WI pitches? Should Indian spinners have to average under 30 on the same overseas pitches to considered great?

    If this is the yard stick I would guess that the sub continent has produced very very few batsmen that would fit into this mold and fewer bowlers.

  • Adaa on February 17, 2014, 9:10 GMT

    You are talking about RAW pace here and miss out on Shoaib Akthar? really?

  • dunger.bob on February 17, 2014, 8:29 GMT

    I agree with @ pat_one_back about Mitch being supported so well helping him a lot. There's just no reprieve at the moment. I've seen plenty of posts saying that Siddle is the weak link and not in the same class as the others. I think that's just wrong. .. Siddle is the cement that glues the whole thing together. He takes crucial wickets at crucial times and keeps them very honest. You need your 3rd seamer to be at them yet economical, which is exactly what Siddle is. .. Harris is just damned good. SA have no idea what he can do I reckon. The fan's I mean. I'm sure the players are right up to speed.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on February 17, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    @NathanMJ54, nobody is demanding. We are just reminding ourselves.... That's all. We are thinking of Kapil's 30 wicket haul for the series against the all conquering West Indies in 1983 in India alongside Marshall's and Holding's heroics. We are also wondering about the skills they must have had to achieve those figures on pace unfriendly pitches. We are also wondering about the skills of Waqar and Akram for being able to remove pitch out of the equation with their yorkers. Well, yes the reason Marshall and Holding have a special respect is not because they fell players on faster pitches but because they indeed showcased their skills in India. Nobody is demanding. We are just reminding ourselves....

  • stormer1980 on February 17, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    As a cricketing Fan , what a bowler , good grief .. Pure Class ... as a Saffa Fan ... What are we going to do !!! LOL Im a full on Saffa fan but Im not going talk down the fact that at the moment , MJ is the best bowler in the world ! He is just doing as he pleases and backs it up

    Awesome to watch !

  • mikehunt27 on February 17, 2014, 8:17 GMT

    @Prasad Perera did you not watch him scare and bounce out the Indians in India in the recent ODI series? Or in last years IPL? Take your blinkers off.

  • on February 17, 2014, 8:15 GMT

    Look at MJ from side-view during his run-up and you will see how menacing the delivery will be; very scary!

  • Romanticstud on February 17, 2014, 8:07 GMT

    At The Moment South African batting needs a shake-up ... I would have this order ... 1) De Kock 2) Elgar 3) Amla 4) Du Plessis 5) Smith 6) De Villiers 7) Philander 8) McLaren 9) Steyn 10) Morkel 11) Tahir ... I feel Duminy and Alviro need to be dropped in order for them to regain the hunger to play test cricket ... and Imran, I feel will be more effective in Port Elizabeth than Peterson ... As for Johnson ... I said before the ashes they should pick him ... because he has the ability to turn a game on its head single-handedly ... He did it here in 2009 ... History will repeat itself ... unless the South African batsman can come up with a plan against quality fast bowling ... Steyn and Vernon are still there however and can still do a lot of damage ... Someone needs to get Steyn angry ...

  • NathanMJ54 on February 17, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    To all the people demanding he prove it in India, HE DID. The one-dayers towards the end of 2013. And really, Indian conditions aren't the greatest test of skill, it's just a happy hunting ground of pitches doctored for the numerous Indian spinners. Can we say half the Indian order is unproven because they were smashed in England and Australia in 2011-12?

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on February 17, 2014, 7:48 GMT

    Mitch has to succeed in India on pace unfriendly pitches like how Holding and Marshall did, to be spoken of as a great bowler. Nevertheless, he is bowling superbly right now. Loved that bit about sons of peter. lol..good one there. 49 SA/Eng wickets at 13 a piece. That says it all about the abilities of these batsmen to play pace and bouncers on pace friendly pitches. If Kohli or Pujara were to fend off in an ugly fashion, we would have those pictures aired on TV and Billboards and 'experts' would have churned out article after article describing how we have been exposed. Fact of the matter is no batsman is comfortable with pace and bounce. Dravid said that very clearly in one of his interviews. At least, Indian batsmen play pace as good as other batsmen and are masters at negotiating spin bowling unlike other batsmen. That is the reason why Indian batsmen are the best in the world!

  • ab_cricket on February 17, 2014, 7:36 GMT

    If MJ can continue with the same average till the next Australian summer 2014-15, he can become the best left arm pace bowler to have ever played. To be in the league of Wasim Akram will be a huge achievement for Johnson. I wish him luck for that!

  • Alexk400 on February 17, 2014, 6:58 GMT

    mitchell johnson real test is in INDIA. That said it is good in batsman era , a bowler can wreak havoc match after match. I hope he continue bowl faster not become his erratic self.

  • TATTUs on February 17, 2014, 6:27 GMT

    @ Rufus_Fuddleduck.

    Gavaskar , apparently, has just one century [in India , Delhi i guess]] playing against the real fast WI.[When all the four played]. Infact it was Amarnath who played brilliantly against them. Gavaskar scored most of his centuries against ,good but, lesser bowling from WI.

  • on February 17, 2014, 6:13 GMT

    "Graeme Smith admitted confusion but denied mental scarring." - Yes this comes at the end of the series!

  • on February 17, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    Johnson is the X factor for Australia. Australia is indeed very lucky to have MJ at the best form of his career. I am certain a Johnson in current form playing for Bangladesh would beat any side in the world.

  • LoungeChairCritic on February 17, 2014, 5:39 GMT

    @kapcharlie quite obviously you are still bitter about the Ashes and you do not follow our domestic game. Fast bowling is our strength. Having Siddle, Johnson and Harris play well is allowing us to further develop our young bowling talent. Starc, Cummin's and Pattinson will win a lot of test's for Australia in about 2 years time once our current bowlers have retired. I would have to say that Pat Cummins is probably the best fast bowling talent Australia has seen in along time. Not many people can bowl at 155km per hour at the age of 17 and play test cricket at 18. At the moment he is a skinny 6ft 4 20 year old with a new action waiting for his body to mature so he can withstand the rigours of international cricket. Even Johnson at 21 was suffering from stress fractures like Cummins. Our batting and spin bowling depth is our weakness. Perhaps England should enquire about the heritage of some of our young fast bowlers. Patto's brother Darren played for England.

  • on February 17, 2014, 5:39 GMT

    Another excellent piece of writing by Mark Nicholas. Very much enjoying his contributions to CricInfo, and as always, his observations ring true.

  • Meety on February 17, 2014, 5:19 GMT

    Good article. But I do feel the need to sledge Mark. During the Test match when Amla copped one on the grille, Mark's initial comment was "Well played Amla"! If Amla had of copped that ball 35 yrs ago - he would possibly be dead on the pitch! It wasn't well played - that said how Amla responded afterwords was a testaimony to his skill & guts (albeit not long enuff to make a difference).

  • on February 17, 2014, 5:04 GMT

    Come to the subcontinent and prove it MJ.

  • Kapcharlie on February 17, 2014, 3:45 GMT

    Enjoy it while you can Oz. When MJ goes off the boil Oz will have difficulty taking 20 wkts especially if they only have Siddle and Harris. Like any other quick, MJ will have injuries and then Oz will be a very ordinary team. On the flip side, it is amusing to see SA's performance especially after all the comments made about how fearful England were in the Ashes -but then, according to Australia, half the England team are Saffers......

  • ThreePIllarTales on February 17, 2014, 3:01 GMT

    Now that it is mentioned, you can see a lot of Lillee's method transferred to a leftie with adjustments on MJ's delivery stride. He's taken out the little hop into an even stride. Locked delivery arm and using the front arm to direct delivery position....all classical approaches. Lillee had similar effect teaching Indian fast bowlers although none has worked or paid enough attention to subtleties to last the distance. All were one or two season quicks and lost their way. The difference is MJ was at the lowest point of his career ...nowhere to go but be humble and learn properly from arguably the best technical exponent of fast bowling Australia produced. Lillee knew the art backwards because he had no choice after his back problems.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on February 17, 2014, 2:55 GMT

    One could hardly call Smith modest or reticent, but the fact is that his recent statements underplay his own immense contribution to South African batting. Kallis was a factor, but it was Smith being the Gladiator at the top which gave the other specialists time to settle down and toned-down bowlers to face. This Gladiator bastion had been breached in the past by freaks like Zaheer, but now it looks like it has been blown away. Amla is not in form and perhaps alive because of his helmet. Suddenly South Africa are ripe for cock-ups any time like England used to be against West Indies in 80s and 90s. And stupid old Gavaskar didn't even want a helmet while rattling off a dozen or so centuries against that Caribbean hunting pack!

  • on February 17, 2014, 2:45 GMT

    Same old Mitch.. With a potion of passion!

  • Thegimp on February 17, 2014, 2:33 GMT

    Yes Mark, i think the difference is that both England and SA have played the old Mitch and played him out of Test cricket. Both teams thought they had it against him and were totally unprepared for what came next. Less give away balls and more steel in his charactor. Mitch's problem is that he is a humble and caring guy, not the attributes of a dangerous fast bowler, I think what Lillee gave him was self belief and the ability to put the bad balls behind him. I think he gave him the ability to separate the bowler from the person.

  • Barnesy4444 on February 17, 2014, 1:19 GMT

    I love that photo. It could be a left handed Larwood bowling to a left handed Bradman in 1932 (minus the leg side field).

  • Barnesy4444 on February 17, 2014, 1:15 GMT

    Lillee saw Johnson as a young man at the academy and said he was a once in a generation bowler. Lillee knows what he's talking about.

  • dalboy12 on February 17, 2014, 1:14 GMT

    Again, people are only looking at Johnson pace as if that is everything there is to him. It is the angle of delivery, plus pace that makes Johnson so dangerous - this angle means the ball can fly of the pitch. Morkel can bowl as quick as Johnson, in NZ there even a guy who was clocked at 153km in a t20. But's it not just the pace it's the skill to put the ball in the right place (something Johnson is doing very well) and the unique low arm and angle that adds to his pace and makes it so dangerous. So what other teams can learn is that sometimes bowlers that don't have dead set classical action (ie...Johnson, Murli, Malinga) can actually be very dangerous in international cricket

  • LoungeChairCritic on February 17, 2014, 0:40 GMT

    As a cricket tragic who watched the Windies bowl on the WACA in the 1980's it was great to good aggressive fast bowling again. The thought of watching someone get hurt makes for compelling viewing. Mitch has amazing stamina to maintain his pace through out the game. That is not an easy skill to develop. I think bowling fast for extended periods is what most young fast bowlers find hard.

  • Beertjie on February 16, 2014, 23:36 GMT

    One who "had quite such figures so often" was the great Syd Barnes. 49 wickets at 11 in 4 tests exactly 100 years ago. Comparisons are supposedly odious but MJ's 49 wickets in his last 6 tests at 13 just popped into my mind. Barnes was hardly a fast bowler, but nor was he a slow bowler. Merely a masterful purveyor of his craft who averaged 7 wickets per test over his test career of 27 tests.

  • on February 16, 2014, 21:22 GMT

    Graeme Smith may learn that Mitch is the real deal by the end of the tour. What a complete jerk-off he is saying he only got batsmen from the lower order out, the actual amount was 10 of 12 were top 7 batsmen. Roll on Pt Elizabeth

  • disco_bob on February 16, 2014, 20:39 GMT

    I'm not quite sure how KP got lumped in with the likes of Swann, Trott and Cook and Prior. In spite of Johnson, England played extremely poorly Cook has always been an unimaginative and defensive captain before Johnson, the fielding was abysmal and England showed in the first Ashes leg that they don't have any plan B as they has no idea what to do about Agar, other than to bounce him out while he slapped them merrily all over the park. And KP was NOT a casualty of Johnson it was Sid and Harris who had his number, Mitch only got him twice, once on 70 and once on 26 while chasing an impossible target. KP in fact was the only player who never looked in any trouble against Johnson.

  • heathrf1974 on February 16, 2014, 20:29 GMT

    I agree with Mark's assessment that there aren't that many tearaway quicks in the world at the moment and many batsman aren't use to them anymore. However, MJ also has an angled release and an un-predictability about him that creates uncertainty in the minds of most batsman.

  • Buggsy on February 16, 2014, 20:13 GMT

    I hope Nicholas is right; that more cricketers will be inspired to bowl fast. There's a massive shortage of them right now, especially with Steyn becoming less effective.

  • on February 16, 2014, 19:52 GMT

    There is no doubt in my mind that the teams with the best quartet (that's right Dhoni) of pace bowlers will win matches. Unlike spin, there is a lot less time to react and whilst one may score runs with inside and outside edges, batsmen will also get out with inside (bowled) and outside (caught behind or slips) when they are setup with short bowling coming at 145k+. Good to see the Aussies in the mix again because they make this game exciting for everyone to watch and savor. Lehman must get a lot of credit one might say.

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 19:12 GMT

    @Kiran DS, That was a depleted Australian side. When Greg Chappel and co returned only 4 in that squad were considered for selection. Sarfraz Nawaz was okay to exploit seriously deteriorated wickete there but he was neither great nor fast.

  • Lara213 on February 16, 2014, 19:07 GMT

    Greg Chappell has arguably the most impressive record against the pacemen: he accumulated an amazing 620 runs at an average of 68 in five gruelling 'Supertests' against the Windies pace attack at its most destructive, but becuase it was part of the World Series the records aren't even acknowledged by the ICC!

  • on February 16, 2014, 19:03 GMT

    If I was in technical analyst of SA; I would look at some key facts. Johnson is in a zone but that zone is for a period of 4 overs. He is using the crease very well. From clips that I am seeing the bouncer balls are significantly different from his regular balls. ENG & now SA batsmen haven't got set plans. Watching AB is a good example of how to play MJ. He is in prime form, but he isn't taking his eye of the ball. Boycott, would say the same. The best way to play a fast bowler is watch the ball closely. The difference is Johnson is bowling with an upright wrist positing. His balls are landing between stump to stump compared to two years ago. After a ball is bowled and if he get hit for a four, he actually stares at the pitch first before the trash talk comes. The good thing he is doing, he actually isn't mentally losing it. We all love drama and he surely he has brought the excitement and drama back to test cricket.

  • McWheels on February 16, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    There are always plenty to support a fast bowler when he's going well, but so few with the imagination to support them when it's going everywhere like an unheld fire hose. The venerable Hoggard was labelled a 'tearaway' in his youth but turned it into a steady swing-bowler and got a pretty respectable test career out of it. Which is right? And not everyone can bowl truly fast anyway.

    Simon Jones, limited test career, but undeniably quick and Fletcher reckoned him the best of the foursome in 2005 with every tool the others had.

    For any coaches out there; please be less keen to slow someone down. Give them a chance to bowl fast because there aren't many and they don't last forever.

  • on February 16, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    March 1979. Australia versus Pakistan Test match in Melbourne. Australia chasing 382 to win are 305 for 3. Enter Sarfraz Nawaz. Complete demolition. Before you could blink your eye, Australia are all out for 310. Sarfraz 9 for 86.

  • on February 16, 2014, 18:34 GMT

    Good article mark Nicholas. This is the reason why I have great respect for mr.gavaskar, allan border and mr. Gooch. These guys scored consistently against 4-5 Mitchell Johnsons in the form of the west indian machinery in the good old days. Amaranth and Kepler wessels did it once or twice. Dennis lillee got it right when he said mitch is a once in a lifetime bowler.

  • on February 16, 2014, 18:33 GMT

    Spot on. Interesting analysis. Your observation about the 140 km pace bowlers and the 150 new look Johnson was pertinent.

  • Lara213 on February 16, 2014, 18:22 GMT

    Worth mentioning Devon Malcolm's one-man demolition of South Africa in that list with his 9-57 in '94, although it was a one off.

  • on February 16, 2014, 18:12 GMT

    This just shows hoe good the batsmen of the 70's and 80's were. Imaging facing 3 or 4 of them bowling just like Johnson.

  • on February 16, 2014, 17:50 GMT

    A big thanks to MJ for showing us what cricket was missing. The McGrathesque method of bowling an off stump line is effective but not exciting unless the bowl is swinging a mile. Australia are lucky that they have young bowlers who can do what MJ is doing. Cummins and Pattinson are both aggresive and very fast young bowlers. Fitness is an issue but they are very young and their bodies will only get stronger. They can both be "Enforcers" of the team. Exciting times for cricket ahead.

  • on February 16, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    I am watching ckt since late 70s & hv watched lethal fast bowling with interest -- live & on youtube.had watched Lillee,Thomson,Willis,Hadlee,Imran,Holding,Roberts,Mrshall,Ambrose,Donald,Waqar,Wasim,Mcgrath,Lee,Akthar,Bond etc..Michel Johnson has rekindled test ckt with high quality fast bowling since last ashes -ODIs & T20 ckt pales in comparision. Hv not seen such consistent brutal fast bowling at high pace since Marshall's consistent exploits from 83-86 when he (like johnson now) had ruffled many test careers..after Imrans 82-83 performances vs Eng & Inda..marshall had great series v Ind 83,Eng 84,Aus 84 ..& since then This is the best exhibition of brutal fast bowling at extreme pace. I have seen (keeping in mind-ambrose,waqar,wasim,donald etc)..Mich was always talented..he has already effected some career setbacks in English ranks in ashes & is poised to do the same with SA as well..way back for SA ? take Mich out for a drink & intoxicate him so that he's out of next 2 tests :-)

  • robbo222 on February 16, 2014, 17:10 GMT

    It's great to see a really fast bowler prospering again in test cricket. The cricket world needs this kind of thrilling and enthralling skill on display more often. Johnson is supremely fit and very strong and any young prospective quick bowlers will need to follow his lead. Let's hope that they do. By 'really fast' I mean bowlers that can consistently bowl 145-155 k's and just as importantly bowl the ball 'heavy'.

  • TheRisingTeam on February 16, 2014, 16:02 GMT

    Like the article mentions, hopefully Mr.Johnson will spur on the future young pacers to bowl as fast and aggressively as him even better. With more pacers like that, Cricket will simply thrive as a sport and rank amongst the best. This is what Cricket especially Test Cricket really needed today a change for the betterment of the game.

  • TheRisingTeam on February 16, 2014, 16:02 GMT

    Like the article mentions, hopefully Mr.Johnson will spur on the future young pacers to bowl as fast and aggressively as him even better. With more pacers like that, Cricket will simply thrive as a sport and rank amongst the best. This is what Cricket especially Test Cricket really needed today a change for the betterment of the game.

  • robbo222 on February 16, 2014, 17:10 GMT

    It's great to see a really fast bowler prospering again in test cricket. The cricket world needs this kind of thrilling and enthralling skill on display more often. Johnson is supremely fit and very strong and any young prospective quick bowlers will need to follow his lead. Let's hope that they do. By 'really fast' I mean bowlers that can consistently bowl 145-155 k's and just as importantly bowl the ball 'heavy'.

  • on February 16, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    I am watching ckt since late 70s & hv watched lethal fast bowling with interest -- live & on youtube.had watched Lillee,Thomson,Willis,Hadlee,Imran,Holding,Roberts,Mrshall,Ambrose,Donald,Waqar,Wasim,Mcgrath,Lee,Akthar,Bond etc..Michel Johnson has rekindled test ckt with high quality fast bowling since last ashes -ODIs & T20 ckt pales in comparision. Hv not seen such consistent brutal fast bowling at high pace since Marshall's consistent exploits from 83-86 when he (like johnson now) had ruffled many test careers..after Imrans 82-83 performances vs Eng & Inda..marshall had great series v Ind 83,Eng 84,Aus 84 ..& since then This is the best exhibition of brutal fast bowling at extreme pace. I have seen (keeping in mind-ambrose,waqar,wasim,donald etc)..Mich was always talented..he has already effected some career setbacks in English ranks in ashes & is poised to do the same with SA as well..way back for SA ? take Mich out for a drink & intoxicate him so that he's out of next 2 tests :-)

  • on February 16, 2014, 17:50 GMT

    A big thanks to MJ for showing us what cricket was missing. The McGrathesque method of bowling an off stump line is effective but not exciting unless the bowl is swinging a mile. Australia are lucky that they have young bowlers who can do what MJ is doing. Cummins and Pattinson are both aggresive and very fast young bowlers. Fitness is an issue but they are very young and their bodies will only get stronger. They can both be "Enforcers" of the team. Exciting times for cricket ahead.

  • on February 16, 2014, 18:12 GMT

    This just shows hoe good the batsmen of the 70's and 80's were. Imaging facing 3 or 4 of them bowling just like Johnson.

  • Lara213 on February 16, 2014, 18:22 GMT

    Worth mentioning Devon Malcolm's one-man demolition of South Africa in that list with his 9-57 in '94, although it was a one off.

  • on February 16, 2014, 18:33 GMT

    Spot on. Interesting analysis. Your observation about the 140 km pace bowlers and the 150 new look Johnson was pertinent.

  • on February 16, 2014, 18:34 GMT

    Good article mark Nicholas. This is the reason why I have great respect for mr.gavaskar, allan border and mr. Gooch. These guys scored consistently against 4-5 Mitchell Johnsons in the form of the west indian machinery in the good old days. Amaranth and Kepler wessels did it once or twice. Dennis lillee got it right when he said mitch is a once in a lifetime bowler.

  • on February 16, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    March 1979. Australia versus Pakistan Test match in Melbourne. Australia chasing 382 to win are 305 for 3. Enter Sarfraz Nawaz. Complete demolition. Before you could blink your eye, Australia are all out for 310. Sarfraz 9 for 86.

  • McWheels on February 16, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    There are always plenty to support a fast bowler when he's going well, but so few with the imagination to support them when it's going everywhere like an unheld fire hose. The venerable Hoggard was labelled a 'tearaway' in his youth but turned it into a steady swing-bowler and got a pretty respectable test career out of it. Which is right? And not everyone can bowl truly fast anyway.

    Simon Jones, limited test career, but undeniably quick and Fletcher reckoned him the best of the foursome in 2005 with every tool the others had.

    For any coaches out there; please be less keen to slow someone down. Give them a chance to bowl fast because there aren't many and they don't last forever.