Weary Johnson finds some aggression
The end of the season can't come soon enough for Mitchell Johnson. After the second day at Seddon Park Johnson, who has had a heavy workload in all three formats this summer, appeared physically and mentally exhausted. He had good reason to, following an innings in which he consciously aimed for more aggression, bowled in the low 150kph region and picked up four wickets.
All of his victims fell to full-ish deliveries, three caught behind the wicket and one bowled. But Johnson had sent down a few more bouncers than he did last week in Wellington, and together with Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger ensured that New Zealand's first-innings lead was slender enough to be overhauled by the close of the second day.
"I looked at the last game and I was just trying to bowl the perfect ball a little too much, I was just trying to get it on the spot," Johnson said. "I don't think I was really aggressive in that first Test and this Test I had a bit of a chat to Troy Cooley and had a think about it and I came up with the fact I didn't bowl aggressively enough and that's what I wanted to do out here.
"Even though it was a slower wicket, I just wanted to bowl a few more shorter ones and have that follow-up being a good ball. I really tried to bowl quicker in this game and it definitely felt good. I enjoyed it and coming to the end of the season you have a bit more energy knowing you only have a certain amount of time to go."
Although Australia gained a two-run advantage by stumps it was a mixed day for the visitors, who fluffed three simple opportunities off Ross Taylor before he reached his century. For the fast men, it was a delicate balancing act between setting up chances and feeding Taylor's appetite for runs through the off side, and Johnson said there were times when Australia didn't bowl to their plans.
"To Ross, you need to be pretty tight to him," he said. "Being a left-armer, when we try to go across him with that tight off-stump line, we create chances. I think we created enough chances but I can put my hand up and say I probably went a bit too wide to him and played into his game a little bit. He played his strength and it came off for him today."
Shane Watson had taken notice of Taylor's run scoring and during Australia's 14-over spell late in the day he moved quickly to 28 from 43 deliveries. On a two-paced pitch on which 264 was enough for a first-innings lead it is difficult to know what a winning score will be, but Johnson said he would be comfortable with an advantage of 350.
"I'm not sure what Ricky is thinking," he said. "There's still a fair bit of time in this game. I think the plan is to bat for as long as we can and Ricky will make that decision when it's time. But I think the way the wicket is looking, there's going to be a bit of turn there and hopefully a bit of variable bounce later on in the Test."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo