New Zealand v Australia, 2nd Test, Hamilton, 4th day March 30, 2010

Shades of Akram in record-breaking Johnson


Mitchell Johnson is used to being quick, though usually it's the speed of his bowling that attracts the most attention. On the fourth day at Seddon Park he did break the 150kph mark on a regular basis to drive Australia closer to victory, but of equal interest was how fast he reached a milestone. When Johnson rattled the stumps of Tim McIntosh, it was his 150th wicket in 34 Tests, fewer games than any other left-armer in history took to reach that landmark.

Only eight left-arm pace bowlers have got there, and that includes Garry Sobers and Bill Johnston, who switched between seam and spin. At the head of the field is Wasim Akram, and after Johnson was told of his achievement he said he was thrilled to be in the same company as Akram, who took 41 Tests to get 150 wickets.

"I used to watch him when I was younger and I guess you grow up and want to be able to do the things that guys like him did when they played," Johnson said. "I used to watch the lefties when they were around, like Bruce Reid, and one day you hope you have the chance to do that. All us lefties do stick together I suppose."

Perhaps a greater compliment than the record came with the word of the opposing coach Mark Greatbatch, who watched on in dismay as Johnson skittled three of New Zealand's top four batsmen with his speed, angle and unpredictability. Only Waqar Younis dismissed Greatbatch more times in international cricket than Wasim, whose key weapons were accuracy and swing.

"He's not the same left-armer as Akram but he looks like he can go up two or three gears on a flat deck, which is a real skill," Greatbatch said. "He has that energy and that ability. It's slightly different the way he did it as what Akram did it but it's still the same quality."

The ball that beat McIntosh was 150kph and the first delivery that Mathew Sinclair faced was even quicker at 152kph. Johnson was keen to use the variable bounce in the Seddon Park pitch to unsettle the batsmen, pushing McIntosh back with a leg gully to get him thinking of a short ball, and he also kept one eye on the radar gun.

"I think most fast bowlers do, you want to see where you are at," Johnson said. "It felt good for me rhythm wise, the guys behind the stumps were encouraging as well, saying it was going through well. You always have a glance now and then. If you think you have bowled a quick ball, you have a look up. It's nice to see when the ball is over 150, I don't mind seeing that at all."

The batsmen didn't like seeing it. After McIntosh, Johnson drew edges behind from the right-handers BJ Watling and Ross Taylor and put Australia in a strong position to aim for victory on the fifth morning. If Johnson has his way, the result will come quickly.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lou on April 1, 2010, 19:17 GMT

    This article i s great, I was waiting for the Akram protectors to come out screaming. Cheers for the laughs Brydon, especially as you haven't claimed MJ is as good as him. Who would?

    Akram was a great bowler and wonderful to watch bat as well as bowl.

    MJ has some way to go to get near him but he is as good a fast bowler as we have in the international game at present, Steyn apart.

    MJ has done extremely well for a bloke who has a history of such iinjuries that he couldn't play for a couple of years. His inswinger hasn't completely deserted him either, it's just kind of random now, I am sure MJ has no idea when it will appear. He's sure bowled fast this summer though. Cranking it up around 150 at will. That will never hurt a bowler. Be nice to see him bowl with less scrambled seam sometimes.

  • Josh on March 31, 2010, 12:27 GMT

    @Umair Waqar Mughal - very well summed up, nice to see a guy put some facts to back up his point instead of "OMFG Akram waz da best eva" type of comment. I agree Wasim was the best leftie I've seen mainly for his ability to swing it both ways and his mental strength as well. Johnson has different strengths, he draws right handers into the shot by bowling stump to stump, he has more pace than Akram and gets good bounce. Interestingly Johnson's strike-rate is better than Akrams, but his poor Economy rate in comparison shows what his weakness is on a bad day. It's far to early to say how good he will be, as good as Akram - I doubt it but who knows. He has got to 150 wickets faster so if he can stop bowling those loose spells and bring his economy rate under 3 his average will drop like a stone and then maybe we can consider him an alltime great like Akram.

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2010, 8:33 GMT

    Mitchell is fast, nippy but posses a one way swing. He uses a combination of bouncers and good length deliveries to lefties while away swinging half volleys to righties as his major attack weapon. I don't intend to undermine his performance but wasim used a combination of two way swing coupled with cutters at varying lengths against his opposition. Mitchell is a game's great of the time but his comparison with wasim is unjustified. Though I would still take this opportunity to commend his performance given evolution of cricket as a batsman's game.

  • Vikram on March 31, 2010, 5:05 GMT

    I dont think Mitchell Johnson, is close or ever will be close to emulating Wasim Akram's performances, while he might be quick and lethal at times, Wasim was the complete bowler, capable of swinging both the old and new ball any time he wished of both a short and long run up. Mitch on the other hand tends to rely only on pace alone, and if run up is slightly off like it was during the Ashes in England it tends to reduce his effectiveness. I think he still has a lot to learn before he can be compared to Wasim, even in shades :)

  • Cricinfouser on March 31, 2010, 2:34 GMT

    I completely agree Gupta, it is silly to compare Johnson with a great like Wasim. However it is also easy to mistake Johnson's methods as only brute force. His wickets against all comers on all surfaces give the lie to that assumption.

    How lucky are Australia to be able to produce quality quicks when their stocks appeared decimated? Not the firepower of previous years to be sure but this attack is proving to be pretty handy

  • Dileepa on March 31, 2010, 2:27 GMT

    Few months back, Johnson was struggling for a place in the Australian side with Doug Bollinger bowling well. One 10 for, & he is in the company ofWasin Akram. Surprising...... Guess he has a long way to reach the legend's level...

  • Troy on March 31, 2010, 1:58 GMT

    Oh please Gupta! Neither Coverdale or Greatbatch said he was anything like Akram. Read the article properly.As the article stated Johnson can change up or down to suit conditions. He gets batsman out with quick and slow deliveries. Johnson has never "hooped" the ball a great deal. Johnson must be doing something right, otherwise he wouldn't have got to 150 wickets so quickly. He may have bowled to some weaker teams lately but at the start of his carear he was playing SA and India . Who know what Johnson may do in the next five years, he may be a great bowler or just a very good one. Gupta , there was no hype , just acknowlegment of a bowler who got to 150 wickets before the great Wasim Arkam.

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2010, 1:48 GMT

    Wasim Akram .. was in a league of his own !! There s No Compare to Wasim Akram !

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2010, 1:10 GMT

    Common now how can you compare him the Akram The Great. Johnson is good baller, but he still got lot to prove that he is great. When Irfan Pathan from India was taking wickets people said same thing.. now we can see what happen to him... The ability to ball 6 different balls in an over can not be mastered by anyone else.. Infact Waqar himself said that.

  • Nick on March 31, 2010, 0:56 GMT

    Mitchell Johnson is a true performer in a modern game where, in general, bat dominates ball. He, along with Dale Steyn have brought back memories of great bowlers from the past. Johnson may have allegedly 'lost his in-swing to right handers', though he is still performing at the highest level with distinction. He has proven to a successful bowler against the best team, in their home countries. People talk about his mediocre ashes performance. Those figures may have been below average for someone of his standards, though compared with any other bowlers around the world taking 20 wickets in a 5 match series at an average of 32.55, is something they would aspire to achieve. Johnson has now reached 150 test match wickets quicker than any other left handed bowler in the entire history of our great game. He resides in upper echelon of fast bowlers in world cricket today, and is set to become an all time great of the game.

  • No featured comments at the moment.