South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 2nd day February 13, 2014

Johnson preys on fresh victims

As England discovered in the Ashes, knowing what to expect from Mitchell Johnson is a different matter to countering it
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'Enjoying my role as the aggressive bowler' - Johnson

"I knew what was coming, but could do nothing about it."

With these words, Ian Botham described facing Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in the fractious English summer of 1992. Well after it was established that Pakistan's pace duo were masterful at moving the old ball, England continued to collapse to it. If anything, the slides became more dramatic as the series went on, the knowledge of previous implosions fixed in the minds of both hunter and hunted, and culminating in a hiding at The Oval.

Mitchell Johnson's thrilling, terrifying and utterly compelling burst at Centurion carried a similar whiff of the familiar. He had done all this before, in full public view, against England in the Ashes. He was bowling to South Africa, the best team in the world, packed with players who had faced Johnson plenty of times before. And there was nothing subtle or secretive about his method, all furious pace, sharp bounce and plenty of menace from that powerful, slingy action.

But for all that was known about Johnson, and Australia, and for all they had boasted of claims to being the best attack in the world, the moment of collision still hit South Africa's batsmen with shocking and unexpected force. The bowling coach Craig McDermott had threatened that Johnson was capable of improving upon the torment he inflicted upon England, an outlandish claim considering the 37 wickets he had plucked. Yet by the close of play McDermott's words rang true - not once during the Ashes had Johnson dismembered the England top order in quite the manner he did so here.

Much of Johnson's value against England had been in how he completely unnerved the tail, after disciplined work by Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon and Shane Watson to winkle out the top order. This time, however, Johnson cut through the world's most-vaunted batting line-up almost on his own, opening up a wound that not even the singular talent of AB de Villiers could adequately dress. South African pride in their Test team is considerable, but the usually boisterous gathering at Centurion was reduced to stunned, awed silence.

Johnson did have some helpful history to call upon. His efforts in 2008-09 against Graeme Smith and company had first announced him as a potentially irresistible force, breaking hands and faces as well as wickets. Certainly Smith took on a haunted, fidgety visage when preparing to face up to Johnson, fully aware of the pummelling his digits had taken in the past. The captain, Michael Clarke, capitalised on this, posting a backward short leg and a packed cordon, while exhorting Johnson to whir in at his fastest.

What followed was the kind of brief exchange that Johnson had previously with Jonathan Trott in Brisbane. His first ball thudded into Smith's thigh and looped to Alex Doolan under the helmet, too quick for the captain's bat. His second was shorter, straighter and, unless the speed gun is to be believed, faster, angling sickeningly towards Smith's head well before he was ready. Initially, Smith shaped to hook, then to defend but succeeded in neither. His feet were off the ground as the ball looped off the bat handle, and his head soon bowed as Shaun Marsh took a decent catch.

Such ugly dismissals stay in the minds of batsmen, whether they be the one dismissed or his team-mates who watched it. Alviro Petersen was a witness at the other end and there was something involuntary about the panicked swish he offered in Johnson's third over, offering a simple edge to Brad Haddin. Around this time, Kevin Pietersen tweeted from his couch in London: "When you facing someone as quick as Mitchell, your instinct occasionally makes you do things you shouldn't.. PACE causes indecision!" It was the first thing Pietersen has said in months that Alastair Cook would have to agree with.

A finer delivery was still to follow. Faf du Plessis may have scored few runs in recent times but to Australians he is still the unflappable debutant who confounded them with his dead bat and calm countenance in Adelaide and Perth in 2012. Johnson duly conjured a shortish ball that spat and seamed, catching the shoulder of du Plessis' bat before he knew it had arrived and skewering to Clarke at second slip. An exultant "F*** off Faf" was heard through the stump microphone, as Johnson's brutality brought Australian blood-lust to the surface, much as it had done in Brisbane.

Three for 23 then, and South Africa shattered. Peter Siddle chipped in with an excellent spell to subdue Hashim Amla, who was struck a painful blow on the arm by Johnson before he succumbed lbw - another nod to McDermott's desire for a fuller length. Though de Villiers fought, with momentary help from JP Duminy, these early incisions were deep ones. Johnson's hold on proceedings would be enhanced by a magnificent running catch to reward Nathan Lyon for tempting Duminy and then a ball rather wasted on the porous forward defence of Ryan McLaren.

It is too early to know exactly how this battering will play on South African minds. They may be capable of moving past it, and summoning an effective method against Johnson. But like Botham, they knew what was coming and could do nothing about it. Johnson now knows this too, as he did against England. He will kill again.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY on | February 15, 2014, 17:18 GMT

    I may have said this on another Johnson story during the ashes, but as a West Indian, I LOVE good fast bowling. I've always respected Steyn, he is as wily as they come, but there is something about the fear and terror that Mitch brings to the table that is unparalleled. I watched all 5 matches in the Ashes, and the highlights of this one, and you left with a breathless awe at the powers being wielded by Johnson. Take nothing away from the rest of the team, but his perfomances in the last few matches have shown how much difference one person makes.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | February 15, 2014, 1:21 GMT

    This was an amazing performance from MJ - even though after the last Ashes, it shouldn't be. I could understand England wilting under an MJ led attack - they had played on docile pitches for most of the last 2 or 3 years & had very few encounters with sustained hostile & accurate fast bowling. They finally encounter it on pitches that gave some help to pacers & it was a recipe for disaster. So i get that. What I don't get - is what happenned here. This pitch ended up being a bit more docile than everyone first thought - yet MJ made it look like a minefield. Yes the Saffas have a great batting line up (even minus Kallis), but importantly these guys grow up on fairly fast bouncy pitches - so should of been able to cope. The Poms top order showed far more spine than the Saffas top 7 (tail was way better than Poms). The only time the Poms were worse than this was @ Adelaide Oval. Plenty of time for the Saffas to adjust - but either way, was still a massive shock to me!

  • POSTED BY on | February 15, 2014, 0:37 GMT

    MJ is one helluva fast bowler. Rippling muscles, brawny mustache and aggressive one-liners rubbing salt into his wounded victims. But the fact that he has become such a menace needs a bit more explanation than carrying over his momentum of ashes triumphs. He has developed into a matured, fearsome fast bowler. As the greats always say, there comes a time in the lives of a great sportsperson when the game/match (be it tennis or cricket) is won in the minds before its won in from of the crowds. For MJ, the opposition team are outwitted and scared in their minds that dulls their otherwise professional ability and experience to play pace or fast bowling. One cannot forget that SA has the best fast bowlers currently in their den and their batsmen should be benefactors of having steyns and morkels, yet their inability to counter MJ's pace is baffling. Well its not baffling because its not a fast bowler they are playing against but its the personality of MJ and that dimension is unmeasurable.

  • POSTED BY wapuser on | February 14, 2014, 14:48 GMT

    SA hire Sunil Gavaskar or Sir Vic as Batting consultant....

  • POSTED BY Purist_fan on | February 14, 2014, 14:34 GMT

    MJ in career best form and ATM is the most frightening bowler to face in world. His form will obviously trough & peak over time & I'm interested to see where his extended performance level will be. Remember also his earlier form plummet coincided with much publicised problems in his personal life.

    I still think Wasim Akram was the best left-arm quick ever, vividly remember how his pace, control & late swing had Michael Slater in all sorts. Plus, for nearly half his career he also unknowingly had Diabetes.

    Shoab Akhtar was very quick & sorted out Hayden early on 1 tour of Oz & he was a class opener. But he had the problem of needing a very long run-up to maintain good rythm & he tired badly over a day in the field.

    Steyn's figures despite illness are impressive. From experience, illness makes it a real struggle to hit the delivery stride with energy. Plus the past has shown he works his way into a series.

    Im an Aussie btw so no bias :)

  • POSTED BY Iwerneanffontmell on | February 14, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    It is interesting how the reinvention of 1 player can change a team who were smashed in India and beaten well in England into the form side in the world in a matter of a few months. I have read how Australia are not a 1 man team but, aside from a new coach, I believe that they are just that. If Pattinson or whoever played instead of Johnson there would simply be no fear factor and the opposition would just wait for the loose balls. Johnson doesn't allow you to do that. He has made players simply survive and then try to attack the others. Take Nathan Lyon - this time last year he couldn't buy a wicket and now, often bowling a negative line around the wicket, he is taking wickets regularly. Johnson is blowing sides away in double-quick time as well which means that the usually susceptible Harris has been able to play every test without breaking down. The Aussie batting is also only a cut above average and I cannot comprehend how Smith has scored 3 hundreds in 4 Tests - underestimation?

  • POSTED BY Reagos on | February 14, 2014, 12:18 GMT

    One of my all-time favourite Australian cricketers is Adam Gilchrist. Superb player and personality. Within recent years I started following Mitchell Johnson closely. He too has become a marvellous player. I wish him nothing but extended success. I know he will destroy my West Indies batting line up, but I do enjoy seeing greatness like him play.

  • POSTED BY gujratwalla on | February 14, 2014, 10:57 GMT

    It is too early to say how the SA batsmen will respond the next time around but i don't think they will surrender so easily.De Villiers showed Johnson was not unplayable and i expect Smith,Amla to step forward..These Proteas are a fighting unit,far braver than England and even if they lose here they will put up a fight to remember.

  • POSTED BY paulmccabe on | February 14, 2014, 10:47 GMT

    Superb article, thank you. Just shows you England were not quite as bad as made out down under.

  • POSTED BY Mervo on | February 14, 2014, 9:51 GMT

    Extreme pace is such a delight - denied to many of us around the world for long periods, with low, slow wickets. Thanks God Australia and SA still produce such bowlers. Legends are written around such truly fast bowlers, Larwood, Lillie, Thompson, Holding, Garner, Ambrose, Tyson, Akram and so on. They are not only respected, but actually feared by the acknowledged best batsmen in the world. As said, the difference between 140 km/hr and 150 is HUGE. There is nothing like it.

  • POSTED BY on | February 15, 2014, 17:18 GMT

    I may have said this on another Johnson story during the ashes, but as a West Indian, I LOVE good fast bowling. I've always respected Steyn, he is as wily as they come, but there is something about the fear and terror that Mitch brings to the table that is unparalleled. I watched all 5 matches in the Ashes, and the highlights of this one, and you left with a breathless awe at the powers being wielded by Johnson. Take nothing away from the rest of the team, but his perfomances in the last few matches have shown how much difference one person makes.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | February 15, 2014, 1:21 GMT

    This was an amazing performance from MJ - even though after the last Ashes, it shouldn't be. I could understand England wilting under an MJ led attack - they had played on docile pitches for most of the last 2 or 3 years & had very few encounters with sustained hostile & accurate fast bowling. They finally encounter it on pitches that gave some help to pacers & it was a recipe for disaster. So i get that. What I don't get - is what happenned here. This pitch ended up being a bit more docile than everyone first thought - yet MJ made it look like a minefield. Yes the Saffas have a great batting line up (even minus Kallis), but importantly these guys grow up on fairly fast bouncy pitches - so should of been able to cope. The Poms top order showed far more spine than the Saffas top 7 (tail was way better than Poms). The only time the Poms were worse than this was @ Adelaide Oval. Plenty of time for the Saffas to adjust - but either way, was still a massive shock to me!

  • POSTED BY on | February 15, 2014, 0:37 GMT

    MJ is one helluva fast bowler. Rippling muscles, brawny mustache and aggressive one-liners rubbing salt into his wounded victims. But the fact that he has become such a menace needs a bit more explanation than carrying over his momentum of ashes triumphs. He has developed into a matured, fearsome fast bowler. As the greats always say, there comes a time in the lives of a great sportsperson when the game/match (be it tennis or cricket) is won in the minds before its won in from of the crowds. For MJ, the opposition team are outwitted and scared in their minds that dulls their otherwise professional ability and experience to play pace or fast bowling. One cannot forget that SA has the best fast bowlers currently in their den and their batsmen should be benefactors of having steyns and morkels, yet their inability to counter MJ's pace is baffling. Well its not baffling because its not a fast bowler they are playing against but its the personality of MJ and that dimension is unmeasurable.

  • POSTED BY wapuser on | February 14, 2014, 14:48 GMT

    SA hire Sunil Gavaskar or Sir Vic as Batting consultant....

  • POSTED BY Purist_fan on | February 14, 2014, 14:34 GMT

    MJ in career best form and ATM is the most frightening bowler to face in world. His form will obviously trough & peak over time & I'm interested to see where his extended performance level will be. Remember also his earlier form plummet coincided with much publicised problems in his personal life.

    I still think Wasim Akram was the best left-arm quick ever, vividly remember how his pace, control & late swing had Michael Slater in all sorts. Plus, for nearly half his career he also unknowingly had Diabetes.

    Shoab Akhtar was very quick & sorted out Hayden early on 1 tour of Oz & he was a class opener. But he had the problem of needing a very long run-up to maintain good rythm & he tired badly over a day in the field.

    Steyn's figures despite illness are impressive. From experience, illness makes it a real struggle to hit the delivery stride with energy. Plus the past has shown he works his way into a series.

    Im an Aussie btw so no bias :)

  • POSTED BY Iwerneanffontmell on | February 14, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    It is interesting how the reinvention of 1 player can change a team who were smashed in India and beaten well in England into the form side in the world in a matter of a few months. I have read how Australia are not a 1 man team but, aside from a new coach, I believe that they are just that. If Pattinson or whoever played instead of Johnson there would simply be no fear factor and the opposition would just wait for the loose balls. Johnson doesn't allow you to do that. He has made players simply survive and then try to attack the others. Take Nathan Lyon - this time last year he couldn't buy a wicket and now, often bowling a negative line around the wicket, he is taking wickets regularly. Johnson is blowing sides away in double-quick time as well which means that the usually susceptible Harris has been able to play every test without breaking down. The Aussie batting is also only a cut above average and I cannot comprehend how Smith has scored 3 hundreds in 4 Tests - underestimation?

  • POSTED BY Reagos on | February 14, 2014, 12:18 GMT

    One of my all-time favourite Australian cricketers is Adam Gilchrist. Superb player and personality. Within recent years I started following Mitchell Johnson closely. He too has become a marvellous player. I wish him nothing but extended success. I know he will destroy my West Indies batting line up, but I do enjoy seeing greatness like him play.

  • POSTED BY gujratwalla on | February 14, 2014, 10:57 GMT

    It is too early to say how the SA batsmen will respond the next time around but i don't think they will surrender so easily.De Villiers showed Johnson was not unplayable and i expect Smith,Amla to step forward..These Proteas are a fighting unit,far braver than England and even if they lose here they will put up a fight to remember.

  • POSTED BY paulmccabe on | February 14, 2014, 10:47 GMT

    Superb article, thank you. Just shows you England were not quite as bad as made out down under.

  • POSTED BY Mervo on | February 14, 2014, 9:51 GMT

    Extreme pace is such a delight - denied to many of us around the world for long periods, with low, slow wickets. Thanks God Australia and SA still produce such bowlers. Legends are written around such truly fast bowlers, Larwood, Lillie, Thompson, Holding, Garner, Ambrose, Tyson, Akram and so on. They are not only respected, but actually feared by the acknowledged best batsmen in the world. As said, the difference between 140 km/hr and 150 is HUGE. There is nothing like it.

  • POSTED BY smudgeon on | February 14, 2014, 9:46 GMT

    You have to agree that it's the bowling unit as a whole that allows Mitch to bowl with the freedom he needs. Harris and Siddle do the heavy lifting along with Lyon, which allows Clarke to give the ball to Mitch for short bursts which aren't long enough for opposition batsmen to settle in a little. Also, the thing that really troubles me, is that so few batsmen seem capable of dealing with Mitch's pace. He's fast, sure, and his angles make him awkward, but is he really that much quicker than Brett Lee? Whatever it is, he's just taken his sixth wicket (AB De Villiers) and it's great to see a bowler who nearly everyone (including myself) wrote off after a disastrous couple of years make such an irresistible comeback.

  • POSTED BY arunsubbu on | February 14, 2014, 9:43 GMT

    as i said in an earlier post,SA are going to be butchered.

  • POSTED BY swauzzie on | February 14, 2014, 8:26 GMT

    @Giles Sayers I totally agree. There's nothing worse than sounding like an Indian supporter!! Nothing to back your statement up. Only emotions or a feeling & we all know how long that can last!! lol Australia look good - so far so good. Lets keep it up for the next 3 tests & THEN start gloating!

  • POSTED BY on | February 14, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    Mitch isn't "the best" but he is in "the best" form and test matches are won by players being in "the best" form during the match and one can not deny how exciting cricket is to watch when bowlers are fast and on fire!! This is "test cricket" not bat-a-thons, that we can well do without. T20 and One dayers have that covered.

    Test cricket is and always has been at it's best when bowlers are operating at their best, not relying on a dodgy wicket but the bowler/s simply being at his/their best. SA are still in this it is only end of day 2 but they need a way to combat Mitch.

  • POSTED BY on | February 14, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    I agree that MJ is at the top of his game at the momentand I hope he stays that way for a long time.

    But the ball that Siddle bowled to get out Amla was a ripper.

  • POSTED BY Mach_99 on | February 14, 2014, 7:09 GMT

    all the justifications and theories in the world cannot dismiss the fact that MJ is bowling nurries which no-one wants to face...he is on fire! What a great and refreshing thing for Test Cricket in general. GO MITCH!

  • POSTED BY dunger.bob on | February 14, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    It's too early to write SA off. They've been ambushed here, but they could regroup overnight. They should make the follow on and every run they get after that makes our job that little bit harder. .. They've got a history of slow starts so I'm going to hold off until we've actually buried them, if we can.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | February 14, 2014, 6:47 GMT

    I agree with the posts here that mj, although in top form at the moment needs to be consistent to be called the best. This is the first sa innings, once they get used to the pace, i dont think he'll dominate really. consistency is hoq you judge perfromance, so aussies stop sounding like indian fans and going on and on about rubbish after 2 days. theres still 2 more test matches to play. we had you 97 for 4 so your top order never did great either. great batting by a couple of lads, thats all. we could do the same at some point.

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | February 14, 2014, 6:26 GMT

    Beautiful innings once again from the best batsman in the world. He just shows what can be done with a little more application. The SA betters must take a leaf from his performance. He played exceptionally well facing probably the next best attack going around in world cricket. Even with the great, magnificent, stupendous, amazing, astounding, astonishing , extraordinary, remarkable, wonderful , prodigious , phenomenal , staggering ,breathtaking , terrific#cud say more but stop here# KING KALLIS gone we can still do better that this. Come on boys, we are made of Madiba resilience , all 27 years of it. Go Protea Go Protea Gooo

  • POSTED BY disco_bob on | February 14, 2014, 6:09 GMT

    @Posted by [NoName] on (February 13, 2014, 20:17 GMT) "...A sick Steyn finished with pretty good figures..."

    It's a bit rich for you to mock the England members for going home sick and then begin by making excuses for Steyn because he supposedly had a bit of a gyppy tummy. He may have finished with pretty good figures but you seem to have forgotten that the damage was done when none of your 5 bowlers were able to break a 200+ partnership which has turned the match and more than likely cost you the game.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | February 14, 2014, 6:06 GMT

    MJ is in a prolific form these days but he needs to carry on this form for at least an year to be listed among best bowlers. I have seen posts comparing Mitch with Steyn which highlights the common problrm with Big Three - Over rating their bettrr than average players. Steyn has proved himself for years; nit just one or two series. MJ has a long way to go to challenge Steyn's position .. Hail Dayle !!

  • POSTED BY rajcl on | February 14, 2014, 5:57 GMT

    eny one remembered sachin vs jhonson & ponting offered 3rd man & 1st slip at boundary for this kind of bowling

  • POSTED BY Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on | February 14, 2014, 5:56 GMT

    I think I saw some scared eyes in the SA line-up. They sure must have some scarred minds too. We always knew that SA batsmen are weak against pacers and bouncers. The mode of dismissals is just a confirmation.

  • POSTED BY twomarktwo on | February 14, 2014, 5:55 GMT

    @Shaggy076. He wouldn't be the first Australian to bowl underarm :P if he did.

    But you are correct to say at this moment Johnson is the best fast bowler in the world. His aggression, intimidation and pace or above everyone else currently. It would be up to the South African batsmen to show the world that he can be tamed, which they have done quite the opposite so far.

    It does fell like he is unstoppable at the moment, but you also get the feeling once a few batsmen manage to get on top of him, his intimidation will diminish (at the moment that looks rather unlikely).

    He is a confidence. But as of this moment, with all of his confidence and the belief in him from all his teammates, he is the last person I would want to face in the middle.

  • POSTED BY BradmanBestEver on | February 14, 2014, 5:34 GMT

    My goodness, gracious me isn't MJ ripping into them? They have no clue - much like the poms of recent times. I would love to hear what the SAs are saying in their dressing room about MJ

  • POSTED BY Shaggy076 on | February 14, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    I think some South African supporters are missing the point, I cant see any Aussies have written off Steyn - the bloke is quality his overall record is outstanding and still churning out brilliant results. It's just for the minute Johnson is having better results and looks to be a better bowler at the minute. Surely its not knocking a bloke when your saying they are the second best in the world "at the minute".

  • POSTED BY Shaggy076 on | February 14, 2014, 5:18 GMT

    bwnz ; The only aggression I have seen this test is short pitch bowling, do you want Johnson to start bowling underarm. If your worried about short pitch bowling maybe time to follow another sport.

  • POSTED BY twomarktwo on | February 14, 2014, 5:18 GMT

    Exciting start to the series! The Australians have proved they mean business!

    Now my boys, pick yourselves up, dust yourselves off and bandage your wounds! Show them your courage and resilience. Weather this storm and then counter attack!

    Come on Proteas!

  • POSTED BY Insult_2_Injury on | February 14, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    You can't argue with form, great to see Johnson firing. But don't forget where the stumps are Mitch. Steyn gives no better lesson than when at the stumps. Well worth emulating. The Aussies lost 4 bowled, 1 LBW & 2 in slips. While the Aussies need to tighten up on the stumps, the lesson is there for the bowlers.

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | February 14, 2014, 3:58 GMT

    Has there even been a bowler who physically hurts players as much as Johnson? I can personally count 5 hands he has broken and many more innocuous injuries. Love it.

  • POSTED BY kohli_is_future on | February 14, 2014, 3:28 GMT

    till abd is at the crease anything can happen.Peterson and big Vern are no mugged either.having said that door the moment mattch is firmly in the hands off Aussies but there is lot of cricket left.just winning two days is not enough against proteas

  • POSTED BY RJHB on | February 14, 2014, 1:58 GMT

    Is it too late for SA to doctor their pitches to produce low slow mud heaps like India, for remainder of the series? oh wait they have no decent spinner, shame shame! Good luck South Africa, you are gonna bloody need it!! #SAbloodonthepitch

  • POSTED BY mondotv on | February 14, 2014, 1:41 GMT

    One other thing to note - Harris was also bowling mighty quick. I don't know whether it was an error and the commentators didn't comment but one Harris ball registered 151 on the speed gun. He take's a bit longer to warm up than Johnson but after that he's a handful as well. I think by the end of the series Harris will be a real factor if he stays fit.

    This is shaping up to be a awesome series - Johnson and Morkel are the thunderbolts, Harris and Steyn both quick and swing and seam the ball late. Siddle and Philander are really quite different bowlers but both can be effective so it looks very evenly balanced with both bowling attacks rapid and effective.

    One thing to note - very disappointing crowd. Play this same test match in any one of the Australian venues and you'd see a much better turn up.

  • POSTED BY bren19 on | February 14, 2014, 0:10 GMT

    There is still the sentiment around that Johnson will go off the boil - that at some point he will start spraying it around the place and revert to the old Mitch. We have seen many batsmen in cricket go off their game, get dropped and come back much better for it. That is what has happened to Mitch here as a bowler. You can keep hoping he will go off the boil while you are hoping he will be destroying your batting line ups.

  • POSTED BY MrAlastairCook on | February 13, 2014, 23:35 GMT

    Where are all the Saffers who were calling England weak and claiming that a "real" batting line up, "the best in the world" no less, would counter the nasty Australian aggression? Easier said than done, that confidence soon evaporates doesn't it boys when faced wih true pace. So enough backhanders to the English lads who battled OK in retrospect.

    It seems the "mentally weak" English top order countered Johnson far better than SA have so far, they do look a lot like the way the English bottom order batted though.

    I fear it could be a one sided affair. The SA batsmen are already confused & confidence shot. I fear for their safety. At least I felt comfortable the English boys knew how to take evasive action (even if Broad did run backward to square leg). They are now rabbits (Springboks?) in the headlghts and soon will be roadkill.

    The only hope now is that the SAF bowling attack can do the same to the Aussie brittle batting, at least then it may be a close competitive series.

  • POSTED BY CM1000 on | February 13, 2014, 23:16 GMT

    Johnson is absolutely awesome / terrifying / the best fast bowler since the great West Indians. But the fact that the other Australian bowlers don't release the pressure is why this attack is without doubt, on current form, then best in the world. Michael Clarke's pre-series comments just look like stating the obvious after today. No disrespect to the South African attack, but with Johnson in this sort of form the Australian attack is on a different level. And that is the point - current form, versus world rankings that reflect performance over times now passed (at least for now).

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 22:38 GMT

    Loving it. The current Australian team is putting the TEST back into cricket. Test Cricket is as much a mind game as it is a game of skill. England used it (mind games) well when they were on top but disintegrated when it was used against them. SA have to me relied on skill and grit alone and may fall over badly this series when Aust pull out all of the stops.

  • POSTED BY testcric4ever on | February 13, 2014, 21:58 GMT

    @Karthik where do you think MJ started to find his mojo?

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 21:22 GMT

    Well written Dan Brettig. Nice observations and great parallels. Great writing on cricket does not need to slip into Mills and Boon. Thanks for this.

  • POSTED BY sitaram58 on | February 13, 2014, 21:17 GMT

    he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right and now he bowls 'em quite out of sight. Good on ya Mitch - you took a battering from the pommie fans and had the gumption to come back and make watching cricket thrilling and fun.

  • POSTED BY disco_bob on | February 13, 2014, 21:07 GMT

    From this day on Faf duPlessis will forever be known as FoF duPlessis, (at least by the Australians)

  • POSTED BY Blakey on | February 13, 2014, 20:51 GMT

    Mitch may not have got the top order English wickets but I am sure the other Aussie bowlers were most appreciative that he was at the other end when a lot of those wickets fell. In many ways he 'got' those wickets as well. Also, it was the way he cleaned up their best batsmen that paved the way for the others. Can't help feeling that Smith's defensive, scared (or is that scarred?) captaincy was the reason for bowling first and the reason Australia will win 3-0.

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 20:17 GMT

    @BradmenBestEver typical one eyed Aussie comment!!. One Day of Bowling and you are shouting Billy!! A sick Steyn finished with pretty good figures. @Lord_mac typical English clutching at straws comment. I can guarantee you that none of our batsmen will suddenly get some strange sickness and leave the series. @Daniel Brettig I think comparing Johnson to the two Pakistan greats is a little bit premature, he hasn't even bowled 20 overs yet. Still time for him to get home sick, start feeling sorry for himself and spray it all over the place.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | February 13, 2014, 20:12 GMT

    Steyn got 4 as well... Johnson is bowling exceptionally well... Remember, proteas got oz out for under 50, i can see that happening again. Nothing worse than a fired up steyn, morkels bounce and pace and philanders haunting line. Gonna b an awesome series, but aint nobody but SA winning this series.

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | February 13, 2014, 19:28 GMT

    1 day doth not make a series!

  • POSTED BY Adoh on | February 13, 2014, 19:26 GMT

    It is foolish to write off Dale Steyn. He is the best bowler in the world, stats don't lie. Johnson is bowling well and being very effective - this is really great cricket to watch. Shame the crowds are down.

  • POSTED BY bwnz on | February 13, 2014, 19:21 GMT

    Fantastic bowling sure. What's not necessary is this ugly side that Australia are showing, effectively being schoolyard bullies. The aggression shown in the Ashes was well over the top and personally the Aussies, Johnson in particular need to pull their heads in.

    There's a couple of other series on around the world at the moment that have had sublime cricket and none of the ugly incidents we've seen from this Aussie team.

    Let the ball and bat do the talking, it's far more compelling.

  • POSTED BY Lord_mac on | February 13, 2014, 18:41 GMT

    Good point made in the article that England top order looked better against Johnson than SA's did. Unfortunately, they played brainless cricket against all the others and exposed the lower order to Johnson too soon - and the rest is history!

  • POSTED BY Asadpk on | February 13, 2014, 18:28 GMT

    Mitch is fast approaching the "legendary" zone here....I've been watching Test cricket for 27 years now and never have I seen such menace, ferociousness and brutality from a fast bowler. May be Malcolm Marshall against the hapless Englishmen, or the Wasim, Waqar with the old ball, or Shoaib with his lethal yorkers, come close. Against Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib it was the wickets and toes the batsmen had to guard, but against Mitch it's hands, arms, head (practically everything above the waist) and what not.

    In facing Mitch, if you don't lose your head physically, you will most likely lose it mentally; just ask Alviro or the England team.

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    "Would Mitchell Johnson's form continue?" Perhaps. Surely at a higher probability if he stays out of subcontinent for a while. It would be interesting to see if he would go for the millions promised by ipl or protect his sublime form

  • POSTED BY lee_man on | February 13, 2014, 17:59 GMT

    Smith's dismissal was eerily similar to one against Fidel Edwards some years ago when West Indies won their first (and only) test match in South Africa.Like now, SA was coming off a series against a team that did not have truly quick bowlers (NZ, I think it was at the time). In that first test, they were made to hop skip and jump, and eventually lost the match.

    I expect SA to rebound, if not in this match, by the next game.

  • POSTED BY doubledeckerbaas on | February 13, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    South Africa are number one because they still win series after suffering days like this. First day in England tour when everyone started saying Steyn was weak. First test in Aus when Tahir got smashed everywhere...first test against India in December when Steyn was again doubted.... I can't see them folding like England did

  • POSTED BY Gherkinboy on | February 13, 2014, 17:56 GMT

    Starting to get the feeling that perhaps England's capitulation isn't going to look quite so bad in a few weeks time.... Pretty certain we are witnessing the team that are going to knock SA off the top of the test rankings

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 17:45 GMT

    Kudos to the author, You've hit the nail on the head.Everyone thought Johnson will spray all over the pitch, but the guy really maintained his intensity.He was like a man on mission what could i say "THE MAN WITH THE MIDAS TOUCH" .I have never seen such a resurgence,if this bloke keeps on bowling like this no one can stand in his way.Craig and Dennis have helped him alot.Keep going Mitch if everything falls right no one can catch you for another 4 years.

  • POSTED BY steve48 on | February 13, 2014, 17:44 GMT

    Sorry, credit where it is due! Bloody predictive text!

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    After Pakistan, Australia is be 2nd favorite team from now on... I was hoping for a competent series after one sided Ashes but not disappointed with fast and furious Jhonson...

  • POSTED BY Narkovian on | February 13, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Daniel: "usually boisterous gathering at Centurion reduced to awed silence". Hmmm. Don't know how to tell you this, but the boisterous gathering seemed to me , as an outsider, to be silent because there were only about 3 men and a dog in there watching ! Unlikely to make a noise even if they all tried at once ! This I find very sad and surprising seeing how probably the best 2 Test teams are playing. What has happenened in SA ? Are you also now so used to a diet of T20 rubbish, that your concentration span cannot take in a Test match ? Sad, when you have many of the best players in the world on display.

  • POSTED BY Akhter786 on | February 13, 2014, 17:36 GMT

    Is it that Dale Steyn is the best bowler in the world but nomore? Yea absolutely, he isn't. He hardly has pace these days. Seems to struggle and is definitely not incisive as he would be. Given Mitch's form and pace he is by far the best fast bowler, the paciest, the fierce, the ferocious, the ruthless the most feared bowler TODAY.....

  • POSTED BY shortsquareleg on | February 13, 2014, 17:34 GMT

    Yes, I agree. We knew what was coming from Johnson, having watched the Ashes. What makes him so lethal is that he is left-handed, targets the body between chest and head -height, with deadly accuracy, which makes it difficult to defend against, let alone attack! I was disappointed that the England and S.A bowlers did not employ the same strategy against the Aussie batsmen, instead of letting them score at will.

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 17:34 GMT

    3-0 for Australia without any doubt. The New long term number one team in the world.

  • POSTED BY steve48 on | February 13, 2014, 17:17 GMT

    The thing is, you can indeed know what is coming, but have no way of stopping it. This Aussie attack is beautifully balanced, esp. when Watson plays, and all 4 of their frontline bowlers would be a contender for any other test team, yes including the under rated Lyon, at least on hard bouncy tracks with his overspin and control. As we English saw in the Ashes, the only run outlet is the fearsome Johnson, who is quickly removed by Clarke when his radar fails him. Whatever was going on in the England camp, it was this relentless quality bowling that reduced us English to strokelessness and panic. Credit where it is died

  • POSTED BY BradmanBestEver on | February 13, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    The best fast bowler in the world today PERIOD

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY BradmanBestEver on | February 13, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    The best fast bowler in the world today PERIOD

  • POSTED BY steve48 on | February 13, 2014, 17:17 GMT

    The thing is, you can indeed know what is coming, but have no way of stopping it. This Aussie attack is beautifully balanced, esp. when Watson plays, and all 4 of their frontline bowlers would be a contender for any other test team, yes including the under rated Lyon, at least on hard bouncy tracks with his overspin and control. As we English saw in the Ashes, the only run outlet is the fearsome Johnson, who is quickly removed by Clarke when his radar fails him. Whatever was going on in the England camp, it was this relentless quality bowling that reduced us English to strokelessness and panic. Credit where it is died

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 17:34 GMT

    3-0 for Australia without any doubt. The New long term number one team in the world.

  • POSTED BY shortsquareleg on | February 13, 2014, 17:34 GMT

    Yes, I agree. We knew what was coming from Johnson, having watched the Ashes. What makes him so lethal is that he is left-handed, targets the body between chest and head -height, with deadly accuracy, which makes it difficult to defend against, let alone attack! I was disappointed that the England and S.A bowlers did not employ the same strategy against the Aussie batsmen, instead of letting them score at will.

  • POSTED BY Akhter786 on | February 13, 2014, 17:36 GMT

    Is it that Dale Steyn is the best bowler in the world but nomore? Yea absolutely, he isn't. He hardly has pace these days. Seems to struggle and is definitely not incisive as he would be. Given Mitch's form and pace he is by far the best fast bowler, the paciest, the fierce, the ferocious, the ruthless the most feared bowler TODAY.....

  • POSTED BY Narkovian on | February 13, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Daniel: "usually boisterous gathering at Centurion reduced to awed silence". Hmmm. Don't know how to tell you this, but the boisterous gathering seemed to me , as an outsider, to be silent because there were only about 3 men and a dog in there watching ! Unlikely to make a noise even if they all tried at once ! This I find very sad and surprising seeing how probably the best 2 Test teams are playing. What has happenened in SA ? Are you also now so used to a diet of T20 rubbish, that your concentration span cannot take in a Test match ? Sad, when you have many of the best players in the world on display.

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    After Pakistan, Australia is be 2nd favorite team from now on... I was hoping for a competent series after one sided Ashes but not disappointed with fast and furious Jhonson...

  • POSTED BY steve48 on | February 13, 2014, 17:44 GMT

    Sorry, credit where it is due! Bloody predictive text!

  • POSTED BY on | February 13, 2014, 17:45 GMT

    Kudos to the author, You've hit the nail on the head.Everyone thought Johnson will spray all over the pitch, but the guy really maintained his intensity.He was like a man on mission what could i say "THE MAN WITH THE MIDAS TOUCH" .I have never seen such a resurgence,if this bloke keeps on bowling like this no one can stand in his way.Craig and Dennis have helped him alot.Keep going Mitch if everything falls right no one can catch you for another 4 years.

  • POSTED BY Gherkinboy on | February 13, 2014, 17:56 GMT

    Starting to get the feeling that perhaps England's capitulation isn't going to look quite so bad in a few weeks time.... Pretty certain we are witnessing the team that are going to knock SA off the top of the test rankings