New Zealand v Australia, 2nd Test, Hamilton, 5th day March 31, 2010

Deserving Johnson earns a rest


Mitchell Johnson put his hand up over the past week, now he can put his feet up. His second ten-wicket match haul delivered Australia victory in Hamilton, their seventh win from eight Tests this summer, and he's ready for a break. Johnson has been Australia's leading weapon this season with 41 victims at 25.90, and Ricky Ponting believes his strike bowler has never been performing better.

He finished the Seddon Park Test with 10 for 132, having collected six in the second innings, but the most impressive thing was the way he kept digging the ball in short on a pitch offering little and regularly broke 150kph. Johnson has come a long way since his disappointing Ashes tour and Ponting said his fast man had learnt a lot, including from the Scott Styris headbutt at the start of the one-day series.

"To be able to bowl the way he did in the second innings of this game, and probably bowled as quick in the second innings of this game as he has right through that period of time, says a lot about him," Ponting said. "This tour in particular has probably been the best and most consistent I've seen him bowl. To get ten wickets in this last game here is a great way for him to end a couple of years of cricket.

"Mitch is a pretty fiery competitor and the leader of our attack I guess as well, he wants to stand up and be that aggressive sort of bowler. He generally is at his best when he is like that. He might have even got a few fans back with the way he bowled here. Once again, those little things like [the Styris incident] are really good for these guys, they learn a lot about themselves when they are confronted with those issues and having the 15,000-20,000 crowd on their back. He is getting better game by game."

Johnson now gets three weeks away before the World Twenty20 and plans to relax at the beach and in the wineries of Margaret River. The challenge for Australia has always been to manage Johnson's workload as he is the sort of bowler for whom too much time away from the game can be a negative.

"Whenever we've given him an extended break he's come back and it's taken him a little while to get back in to it again," Ponting said. "What we have to do is make sure we don't run him into the ground. I know he's got a nice little break with no IPL, so the guys will make sure he gets appropriate work done to be fresh and fit and ready to go for England [to play Pakistan]."

Johnson said this week that he was happy to kick back and relax instead of heading to the IPL, despite what he conceded was tempting money, in order to keep himself fresh for Australia. His main goal is to make sure he is peaking for next summer's Ashes series in Australia, so that he can make up for his meltdown in England and bowl his team to victory to regain the urn.

"I need my breaks now and then but not big breaks, two or three weeks is probably my maximum break," Johnson said. "I think the more bowling I do the better I feel. I know when I come back from a little break I do feel a bit stiff and sore, I know definitely the more bowling I do the better I feel about my bowling.

"I think I have definitely improved, during that Ashes series I had a bad one at Lord's and probably wasn't as consistent throughout that whole series. But you are going to have those ups and downs throughout your career and I think I have learnt from that. I think I have proved it since then and I think I have definitely stepped up a little bit."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ankur on April 1, 2010, 11:30 GMT

    There's nothing to shout out praises for johnson based on performances against a poor batting side like NZ.

    Johnson nowadays relies only on pace as all his balls come straight with the angle of delivery obviously...

    So its pretty much boils down to ability of the batsman to get behind the ball and adjust according to pace,angle of delivery.....

    Johnson's 10 wickets are largely due to in-aptitude of kiwi's.......

  • Rajaram on April 1, 2010, 7:18 GMT

    If the Poms think Mitchell Johnson is going to be easy pickings, they've got another think coming. I predict he'll take a 2 in 2, injure a few,be the Man of the Ashes Series 2010 /11,and leave the Poms shaking their head in disbelief.Go Mitch go!

  • Benjamin on April 1, 2010, 0:54 GMT

    @ sajeevnara - Are you sure you meant to place Hayden's name amongst the gentlemen of the game?? As a Aussie supporter he was possibly the worst sledger Australian cricket has had, along with Steve Waugh. Both tough hard cricketers that would win at any cost. I still can't comprehend that you can win but perhaps ultimately lose because you didn't do so in an honourable manner.

    I'm not sure about you but I don't play sport to finish second. If I can get under an opponent's skin by giving a little verbal jab then so be it. Its test match cricket - it's test of physical but mainly mental strength.

    When you're playing for big bucks and the number 1 position of course you're going to win at any cost. I still think back to the Sydney test AUS v IND and laugh. All that rubbish that followed was a joke. AUS won enough said move along. There was sledging in the body line series, there is sledging now, and also tomorrow. Accept it - these guys are playing for big money.

    Mitch stay firey.

  • Grant on March 31, 2010, 22:48 GMT

    Well done Mitchell, you are a great asset to the Australian side. The aggressive way you play the game is great to watch. It is also in very poor taste to read yet another comment on how badly Australians behave. Being competive is a fantastic thing. From what I see the Australian team is a very clean and fair cricket side and our record over the last couple of years for on feild conduct is second to none. Unfortuantly you have other sides around the world, in particular India, who sledge and threaten to throw the toys out of the cot if things don't go their way. Buts lets not go down this old path again, well done Mitch and I can't wait to the Ashes!!

  • sajeevnara on March 31, 2010, 17:41 GMT

    Wish he would know how to behave better on a cricket field so that cricket continues to be called a Gentlemen's game. No matter who, but all the sledging and arrogant behaviour on the cricket field has made one wonder whether winning is al that matters. To me winning with gamesmanship and fair play is what palyers from all countries should exhibit. On that score, Mitch scores poorly. So do most Aussies. Hopefully the current Aussies would take a clue from former players like Hayden/Gilchrist.

  • michael on March 31, 2010, 13:09 GMT

    as a new zealander every time u see johnson come on to bowl you have a feeling he is going to take a wicket. The rest can be mediocre at times

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2010, 12:39 GMT

    Peter Roebuck should be contritely eating his words, having called for Johnson's sacking during the Ashes series. His performance this summer proves just how ridiculous that was, well done sir!

  • mat on March 31, 2010, 11:39 GMT

    Great to see Johnson firing like he is. A pity, I believe, that comment of Johnson's 2009 Ashes has been dominated by his poorer performances in that series. Not much is said about his amazing spells against Bell, Collingwood and Prior. Swinging the ball down the line at 150k's was as good as fast bowling that I have seen - he nailed Bell three time leg before in one innings without success. He was unplayable that day and that is how I will remember Johnson on that tour.

  • NEDUNCHEZHIAN on March 31, 2010, 9:06 GMT

    Great job, Mitch !! u deserve the break and hope u'll help Australia win the worldt20 cup.

  • Michael on March 31, 2010, 7:11 GMT

    Well done Mitch, great series. He is deceptively quick. People talk about Lee and Tait, but he is right up there for pace with them.

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