South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 4th day

Red-hot Johnson wants to get even better

Daniel Brettig at Centurion Park

February 15, 2014

Comments: 71 | Text size: A | A

On his way to the dressing room to celebrate a performance that will be remembered as much for its sheer terror as its 12 wickets, Mitchell Johnson was stopped by a man who understood his achievement better than most. Michael Holding, the great West Indian fast man, offered his warm congratulations. Having now collected 49 wickets at little more than 10 runs per victim in his past six Tests, Johnson is now very worthy of such company.

No-one is better placed to appreciate that than Australia's captain Michael Clarke, who has been a major beneficiary of Johnson's destructive power. Before Johnson returned to the Test team, Clarke was a leader with a record trending sharply down in 2013 and a man having to contend with critiques from his highly respected predecessor Ricky Ponting. Now he is sitting happily at the vanguard of what is quickly becoming the world's most feared team.

Mitchell Johnson collected his second five-for in the match, South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 4th day, February 15, 2014
Michael Clarke and Michael Holding were among those lauding the carnage unleashed at Centurion © Getty Images

Asked about the effect Johnson was having on South Africa, Clarke broadened his response to include every follower of the game. Johnson's demolition of Graeme Smith's side at Centurion was a shot heard around the world, and a match to rank highly with anything achieved by teams away from home in living memory.

"I don't know what South Africa are feeling at the moment. I do know there is not one cricket lover around the world that doesn't know Mitchell Johnson is bowling at 150ks and executing his skills better than any other bowler in the world," Clarke said. "Whether you play the game or watch the game, you know. They have seen it against England. He showed it here again in different conditions. He's bowling fast.

"He's the fastest bowler in the world at the moment, there's no doubt about it, but his execution and his skills. It's amazing skill to be able to bowl fast but it's being able to hit that mark as often as Mitchell is. That's class, that's world class. Mitch has got the right attitude. He wants to get better, he thinks he can improve."

The hunger to seek constant improvement can be summed up neatly by Johnson's own recollection of his thoughts at the end of the first innings. Having scooped 7 for 68 and totally unnerved South Africa in the process, he turned to Clarke and reckoned he could get better second time around. True story.

"I said to Michael after the first innings that there was definitely room for improvement in that second innings," Johnson said. "You're always trying to improve as a player, trying to always get better. That's what I'm still going to be trying to do throughout the series. Playing away from home that's where you really can test yourself.

"We're up against the number-one side so I think that's good motivation for us to just keep getting better. I don't think you ever play a perfect game, but it felt pretty good out there today. It is something that I will look back on at the end of my career and be proud of that moment but for now it is only one Test match and we have two to come.

"We said during the summer back home that we want to get better as a team and for me personally I just want to keep that consistency going, keep bowling those short spells and keep that pace up. We bowled really well as a bowling attack today, I was really excited about how we bowled today and thought we stopped them in their tracks. When you have got someone like AB [de Villiers], who comes in when the ball is a bit softer and he really is a class player, I thought we tied him down really well and did a great job."

Central to Johnson's potency of course is the fear generated by his slingy action, capacity to generate variable bounce as well as high speed, and a left-armer's angle which always seems to follow the batsman when pitching short. "It's been a fairly big part especially on wickets that have suited that kind of bowling like it did out here," Johnson said. "I think that's why Michael declared early this morning, he saw there was enough there.

"When you have a look through summer I guess the Gabba wicket was nice and bouncy but when you take that away the Adelaide wicket wasn't at all, but what I have learnt over time I do have that belief and confidence in myself and I know what works for me. Credit to Michael as well for bowling me in those short spells and I am really enjoying that at the moment."

Among 12 wickets there were plenty of hellish deliveries beyond the capacity of any batsman to counter, yet it was one ball that did not claim a batsman that may stay in the memory longer than most. Having defeated Alviro Petersen, Johnson's first offering to Hashim Amla was short, perfectly directed and onto the world's most cultured batsman before he realised. The result was a clatter of grille and beard - without a helmet Amla may not have survived it. Queried on whether such a sight was as satisfying as off stump tilting back, Johnson held even his captain in awed suspense.

Said Clarke: "I'm actually interested in this answer."

Replied Johnson: "Yeah, so am I. It's a plan that I've come over here with, it worked in Australia and conditions like this suit. It's nice to be able to do that first ball when someone's coming in, the way he plays the game. You saw after that he smacked me for a couple of fours off the back foot, so it obviously didn't affect him too much.

"It's a nice feeling, from my point of view as a fast bowler. But it didn't get him out, so it didn't end up affecting him at all."

Amla, Holding and the rest of the world might beg to differ.

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Jagger on (February 20, 2014, 16:12 GMT)

@ akshaykatyura - you are too soft for this level of cricket, mate. Its better you take up playing dollies.

@ Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth - pleasant surprise to see a decent question from a decent fellow. I saw the 70's in person. I don't rate Holding as highly as others do. When judging your best, remember that many bowlers suffered debilitating injuries. Like Shane Warne's flipper, probably the deadliest delivery of all, Thommo was a much better bowler before he injured his bowling arm. Good judges in Ian Chappell and Ashley Mallett played with Thommo before his injury and they say he was close to 180km/h. Imagine that.

The two best fast bowlers I have ever seen are DK Lillee and Malcolm Marshall by a long way. Many of them have been unplayable at their peak - Ambrose, Garner, Hadlee, Akram, Bond, Johnson - but to watch Marshall and Lillee at their best was a just a different level altogether. They were geniuses with the heart of a lion and I can't split them.

Posted by razorack on (February 19, 2014, 20:46 GMT)

"I think its partly down to England's pathetic batting that his stock has gone up that much"

I think this is far from the truth. MJ in his current purple patch (hopefully sustainable) is drawing out the difference between the current generation of "great" batsmen and the truly great. Now we can see that amongst the current crop of SAF batsmen, that only AB and Amla are contenders, would Kallis have faired better? No doubt he was a magnificent player amongst the truly great, but age catches up with everyones reflexes, and although his experience would have helped, along with his natural ability, the fact that he was a little suspect in latter years against for example akhtar, leads one to doubt that he would have had the profound impact that he once would have. Bigger bats, shorter boundaries, excessive scheduling demands, and better prepared pitches has strongly favoured the batsmen. So we have had a ridiculous number of modern day "great" batsmen. Enter MJ the great exposer .

Posted by NALINWIJ on (February 17, 2014, 15:10 GMT)

Johnson will attain greatness if he can play another 20-30 test matches and this is only if he manages the enormous repetitive stress on his body by playing all sorts of cricket such as t20. this also applies to Watson as well.

Posted by Rabbito on (February 17, 2014, 9:29 GMT)

hang on @jimmyvida!! that's a bit of a mismatch...compareing those two with Johnson is a bit unfair on them!! they are decent but nowhere near the class of Johnson - for a start their max is about 142 compared to 155.... Johnson is the best pace bowler in the world currently - and they are a fair way down the list....good nonetheless but you get my point....

Posted by Jimmyvida on (February 16, 2014, 18:45 GMT)

NZ wants to have Johnson go head to head with Boult and Wagner. I hope they prepare nice green,bouncy tracks like they are doing for India, and have paramedics standing by. Australia must get used to almost 'wides' all day as soon as new ball through.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 15:47 GMT)

MJ has really an improved blower .. He is an terror on cricket field .. Players are getting intimated by his new look and aggressive approach I like the change in him it's good for cricket !!

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (February 16, 2014, 14:20 GMT)

That's some chip there old son, @stueyh1.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 14:13 GMT)

johnson is on fire .. i like the way he bowled superbly done .. smith is realy worried about him

Posted by mmoosa on (February 16, 2014, 12:57 GMT)

The thing about Johnson is his control is so brilliant...its almost a new frontier in fast bowling,an express left arm quick...sure Wasim was quick,very quick in 92 and before that as well as tough to pick up.His mode though was to use "brutality" to add to his art...Johnson though adds art to his brutality! Both methods require extreme skill and both are equally effective.It just might be the case that batsmen would rather face the great Was than the current Mitch..To scone Amla before he could react is going to have an effect on a fair few players in other countries not to mention possibly destroying Mclaren's test career.I have to admit as a Proteas fan that im loving every second of Johnson's performance...its great for cricket! Its also a chance for truly great players to shine.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 11:27 GMT)

Special shout out to a great question from a younger Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth and some great answers from a more experienced kepler22b, David Buttle, CM1000, swells64, blah_blah, Biggus, Gerry_the_Merry, Meety, Pottering and others.

Take a bow!

This is why I read this forum. Not to hear smug and asinine remarks from biased supporters about which team is best, but to hear questions and opinions from those who can always be a home team fan but who just love cricket, and have valuable opinions to share.

More of this please, and less of: "My team is best because it beat your team <insert scoreline here> in <insert year here> with <insert cherry-picked factor here>"

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 16, 2014, 10:06 GMT)

@stueyh1 Yeah, you definitely proved your point... I guess? Bodyline was an idea that the English thought up and brought to Australia. English supporters thought we were being soft when they read about it newspapers and whatnot. When the next series in England happened and the same method was employed even the English supporters didn't like what they were seeing from their team. It wasn't just Australians who thought it was unsporting. I'm guessing you probably haven't seen footage from the bodyline series, you've just vaguely heard about it. If we were doing actual bodyline tactics right now Australian fans would be completely discrediting our own team, I can promise you that.

Posted by stueyh1 on (February 16, 2014, 9:50 GMT)

Dear ModernUmpiresPlz........ I rest my case!!!!!

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 9:23 GMT)

@stueyh1 - you need to read up on Bodyline before using it in comments. It's actually illegal in the game of cricket to use those tactics any more. Laws 41.5 prohibit a stacked legside field behind the crease and 42.6a prohibts the repetitious use of short deliveries if they are deemed to be likely to result in injury and in 1932-33 no one wore chest, side, arm guards or helmets. There is no comparison between bowling bodyline and bowling a couple of bouncers each over and there never was an issue (even during bodyline) with a couple of bouncers each over.

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 16, 2014, 9:17 GMT)

@stueyh1 You nonsense bodyline spouters are really starting to grate me. Bodyline wasn't just about a couple of bouncers per over and the occasional hit batsman, at least learn about what bodyline was before saying that name. It was CONSTANT short pitched bowling, nothing was pitched anywhere but short. Did Johnson do that? Nope. You also needed a completely stacked legside field behind square. Can you do that anymore? Nope. It's now outlawed BECAUSE of bodyline. We also have helmets and protective gear to boot now, did they have that in bodyline? Nope. Bodyline was about targeting a batsman around his armpit area so the only real shot you can play is the little fend behind square kind of shot. The difference was that you could put as many fielders there for it as you liked, making it completely unsporting. Bradman still averaged 50, no protective gear.

Learn your facts, then talk, seriously.

Posted by shraz on (February 16, 2014, 9:02 GMT)

Indian team has a lot of time before the australian series to sort out johnson...Johnson can also break considering the fast bowlers workload. Also looking at Eng & SA the indians will have done their homework & will be better prepared than Eng & SA......The imp thing here is the Indian bowling strength

Posted by lasfri on (February 16, 2014, 9:00 GMT)

The way he is going, we can soon have a Johnson's Barometer for testing how good a batsman is. And based on the performances over the past six months, only A.B.DeVilliers and Virat Kohli have shown any kind of comfort in facing Mitch. The former has very quick feet and the latter very fast hands. So ditch the ICC rankings and use the Johnson's scale instead - a good way to measure pure batsmanship.

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 16, 2014, 8:45 GMT)

@ARUP1962 It's refreshing to see a realistic Indian fan, but even if Mitch does destroy the Indian batting lineup they are very young, and it will only serve to make them much better batsmen in the end. They'll last beyond the end of Johnson's career and when they face Starc/Pattinson/Cummins they will be much more prepared. It's only a good thing for cricket, especially test cricket.

Posted by stueyh1 on (February 16, 2014, 8:30 GMT)

Johnson is a thug, pure and simple! The Aussies are still whinging about Bodyline 80 years afterwards! Maybe the rest of the world can whine about Johnson in 80 years time too. But there again Johnson is an Australian so it won't count!!! It different when the Aussies are copping it!

Posted by ARUP1962 on (February 16, 2014, 8:23 GMT)

Come December India beware! Mitch Johnson will fry our batting line up.

Posted by MaruthuDelft on (February 16, 2014, 7:55 GMT)

@Pottering, You know your cricket! It is the ability to win the first contest of a tour is very important. Johnson has done it twice (I don't know if he got wickets in his first spell in the SA tour in 2009) but Lilly did it so many times. One of his last was in I think 1982 against Windies when he neutralised Viv Richards; with that Viv started to decline. When Australia toured Sri Lanka in the very first over Lilly sent back Roy Dias and Sidath Wettimuny the best Sri Lanka had the; Sri Lanka never recovered. The value of fast bowlers like Lilly and Johnson is beyond stats.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 7:46 GMT)

Indian batting is better equipped to face johnson? says who...says a delusional Indian who forgot that last week Kiwi bolwers bowling swing at 135+ were beyond their scope. I wonder how many Indians will return home in one peice after their australians tour next summer.

Posted by DanielRob on (February 16, 2014, 7:43 GMT)

@Talalthegreat. You are absolutely spot on mate! India dont stand a chance against this Aussie bowling line up. I can assure you that after the end of the 1st Test match they would be more than willing to return home. Indians dont have a bowling line up to take 20 wickets in a match. Aussies will topple India in the rankings at the end of this year. I just wish Mitch to be fit for that series.- Indian Fan

Posted by TNAmarkFromIndia on (February 16, 2014, 7:35 GMT)

Paul Tilbury, I'd like to see you stick to that comment when Johnson plays on slow and low subcontinent pitches and gets no help from the pitch at all. You lot were already writing Australian cricket's obituary when Australia were demolished 4-0 in the Test series in India. Johnson is a bouncy track bully in the same way that Dhawan, Pujara and Kohli are flat track bullies.

Posted by Talalthegreat on (February 16, 2014, 7:23 GMT)

People saying Indian batsmen r better equipped to face Mitch?? Really? even on double-flat Indian pitches Mtch was the best bowler of the series. I bet this year India is gonna be crushed by mitch and Aussies. Their batsmen will be clueless and their bowlers wont penetrate. SA have better bowling and batting lineup than India but were still crushed. On their home ground too!!!! India will lose 4-0 to Aus this year I bet

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 7:11 GMT)

Did anyone say that since the Proteas are bought up on a diet of fast and bouncy wickets they are good players of fast bowling!!!

Posted by sanjaykk on (February 16, 2014, 6:20 GMT)

150 km is very fast people and things get worse with johnsons round arm action hitting the good length!! the heavy bats are the bane of modern batsman. By the time they lift it and try to meet the ball they are too late!! bat should be light to manure the ball. sway or get inside to clip it or hoik it over mid-on not edge it, I said 'hoik'! Devillers uses light bat and he got the runs while others were sitting duck for johnsons pace. wait a minute. It wont get better it is gonna get worse for south africans. They should have lost both test matches to india. there bowling is predictable with philander hitting same line and length( hayden would have murdered him). And dale steryn cannot do much with others effective. morkel does not have johnsons strength to hit the deck with menace and extract the bounce! The predictable bowling would be there downfall! There batting is also on the decline! this is 3-0 to australia and let there be no d! you can take it to the bank because i told you so

Posted by sanjaykk on (February 16, 2014, 6:15 GMT)

the sooner other bowlers learn this trade the better. Did indian bowlers dismiss any newzealand batsman by bouncers? zilch! is the answer! India will let this slip this match too due to inept bowling with meager penetration! The indian batting is better equipped to face johnson in the coming seasons but bowling is a huge worry with world cup around the corner. Middle order batsman also a worry as they cant handle bounce on aussie pitches( raina, yuvi 2 sitting ducks!). God save india defending the world cup!

Posted by sanjaykk on (February 16, 2014, 6:12 GMT)

johnson's bowling is very simple. bowl fast and bowl at the rib cage or tuck them up with his round arm action and whole world of batsman are sitting duck. None of them have a good technique to either sway away or move outside the ball to whip it or hit it on the ground. he got this radar right and will terrorize all the batsman in the world barring to an extent in india due to below knee bounce pitches. The indian bowlers have no penetration and we are seeing the consequence today. they are struggling to get sides out despite nearly 200 plus lead. The aussies are back and back with a big bang. They have got core of young batsman and bowlers now! with 2 new balls and 2 new bouncers allowed( is it for t-2o too? 2 bouncers per over?) than it is all loaded in favor of johnsons now. The heavy bat and flat tracks around the world are the main reason why batsman cannot handle his kind of bowling anymore! And john will reap this benefit to the hilt! And the sooner other bowlers learn his way

Posted by Blackholesun on (February 16, 2014, 5:25 GMT)

Super stuff from Johnson, he deserves all the applause. But I think Australia should not be going overboard just yet. I am sure Dale Styen must be eager to strike back. And we all know he can do it at equally fast speed.

The way Johnson is bowling reminds me of "Body Line" Series. He is clearly targeting the body of the batsmen. At 150 km/hr a ball can do a serious damage. He did the same against England and unfortunately England didn't had the bowlers who could strike back at the similar speed. However South Africa is different. Both Styen and Morkel can hurt while returning the favor. Having said that I think this is what the fast bowlers are. They must create fear in the opposite team and Johnson has done exactly that.

The current moment belongs to Johnson, so let him enjoy it with his teammates. Can anyone tell me if Australia wins 3-0, will it become No 1 test team?

Posted by Pottering on (February 16, 2014, 5:19 GMT)

To Sauron: I've seen Lillee, Holding, Marshall, Thomson, Garner, Akhtar and Younis live and all at the WACA which is the place to see fast bowlers. I could add Ambrose to that list and Imran was no slouch either (won a fastest ball comp against Holding, Lillee, etc during WSC days).

For sheer terror Thomson was the best. Totally unpredictable and could get it into a batsman's face off the fullest length I've seen. Lack of helmets didn't help. Holding and Akhtar were frighteningly fast, but not as intimidating. Marshall was slippery and Lillee menacing because he was at you physically and verbally. Ambrose was unplayable at the WACA a couple of times because of the cracks.

I think Johnson is benefiting from the paucity of bowling of his type, modern players haven't been physically threatened much recently. McGrath set a standard that most quicks tried to emulate, 135-140k on a nagging length. Not too much venom, just metronomic accuracy.

Posted by Dashat on (February 16, 2014, 4:34 GMT)

Nice one Mookie Es...

Just because you prefer to sit and watch and enjoy a soft drink or 3 does not mean everyone does.

Some people play sport for a living.

Your pride is dented I know but leave the nasties to Mitch.

I wonder what the curator will serve up for next test? Be the 1st time since Aussies last toured they will be flattening the decks. Just hope they don't make it a spinners wicket and put too much pressure on Peterson

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 4:19 GMT)

There's no way I'd trade Johnson for Kohli, Dhawan and Pujara. Three flat track bullies for a player that can win tests home and away single handedly. I wouldn't trade Johnson for anyone in world cricket, not even Dale Steyn

Posted by Meety on (February 16, 2014, 4:18 GMT)

@Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth on (February 15, 2014, 20:02 GMT) - very topical discussion point. My following of cricket "live" on TV goes back to the 70s & live at the ground in the early 90s. One comment I would like to make is about Garner who you mentioned - he actually wasn't that fast (fast enuff to make me soil myself though) - but probably around the 145kph - although I think he had a fast yorker. The WI use to bowl 4 or 5 short balls per over against batsmen minus as much of the padding today. They were just plain hostile because the laws allowed them to bowl so many bouncers. Lee & Ahktar were faster than MJ (typically) - but unlike MJ they were easier to read (if you were an International class batsmen). It has been 30 yrs since I have seen batsmen as genuinely fearful as ENgland were in Oz during the Ashes - I would have to go back to Pakistan on terrifying WACA pitch in about 1983, when they were bowled out for about 60.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 4:16 GMT)

He needs to go to the UAE and bowl like this on a dead track before he is knighted.

Posted by Dielo on (February 16, 2014, 4:08 GMT)

Mitchell's accolades very much deserve to be shared by his captain and fellow bowlers. Michael Clarke has shown great accumen in knowing the perfect time to put MJ in and take him off before he gets tired. Other captains would have definitely over bowled him in the form he's in. And MJ's fellow bowlers have done a fantastic job maintaining the pressure on the other end thus forcing the batsmen to take chances against him and increasing their chances of being dismissed.

Posted by Dielo on (February 16, 2014, 4:02 GMT)

Awesome performance by Mitchell. And reading his comments post match shows how much he has matured as a player and a human being since his early days. I honestly did not expect that he would retain the fire he showed against England and would have the world's No 1 Test team hopping around once the Ashes was over.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 3:58 GMT)

The best fast bowling spell I have witnessed since a very long time. Thank you Mitch. So it's not only Indian's who would succumb to furious short pitch stuffs... Most of the South African batsmens too didn't have any idea with Mitch's short stuffs...

Come on SA, better work out on playing Mitch more sensibily or else I am definitely foreseeing a whitewash here!!!!

Posted by Gerry_the_Merry on (February 16, 2014, 2:28 GMT)

I think his 7/68 is some of the most dangerous fast bowling I have seen.

Johnson of 2013-14 compares favourably with jeff Thompson of the 1974-78 vintage, holding of the 1976-1982 vintage, Marshall of 81-85 vintage and ambrose of 1989-1994 vintage. Perhaps a couple of others like lillee (in combination with Thompson) and bishop (1991 in combination with Ambrose) would come very close. Bowling of this ferocity happens once in 15 years.

Some others like Brett lee, Donald, akhtar came close, but they did not get the violent bounce that Johnson and the others mentioned above got, and batsmen dislike these throat balls.

Ambrose, holding et al did not take 49 in 6, but had similar awe inspiring achievements for a 2-3 year period. Ambrose dismantled the mightiest batting line up on the planet all by himself in Australia in 1992-93. Similarly Holding in 1981-82. Johnson does not seem to have other bowlers who will take wickets rapidly and reduce his tally, so that is an advantage he enjoys.

Posted by akshaykatyura on (February 16, 2014, 2:11 GMT)

He is just a Green pitch bully.

Posted by Biggus on (February 16, 2014, 1:52 GMT)

@ Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth:- Well mate, I did see Thommo, Lillee, Roberts, Holding and all those guys play and your senses are not playing you false. What MJ has done over the last 6 test matches rates with anything I've ever seen in terms of sustained ferocity, equal to Thommo in 74/75 Vs Eng and 75/76 Vs the Windies, equal to the Windies at their peak, and in all likelihood Typhoon Tyson as well, whom I didn't see but Richie Benaud rates his the fastest he's seen, just marginally faster than Thommo. MJ's not quite as fast but this is nasty, nasty stuff. His short balls are as good as I've seen. P.S. Joel Garner wasn't all that fast, relatively speaking, probably mid 140's tops, but was enormously tall (6'8' from memory) and very accurate with very steep bounce and a deadly yorker.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 1:50 GMT)

That muscular frame of MJ looks somewhat eerily like that of some juiced up baseball players using steroids and banned substances. I wonder what's the policy in cricket for using banned substances.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 1:00 GMT)

Of all the fast bowlers I saw, I thought C. Ambrose was the most scare due to his height & pace. I was never scare to face MJ on TV or read the comments online as an Aussies supporter. In fact, I REALLY enjoyed it all. GO MJ & the Aussies.. Number 1, here we come.

Posted by Bockee on (February 16, 2014, 0:39 GMT)

Mitch was utterly brilliant here. It felt like two countries fighting a war, and only one had the atom bomb.

A lot of credit must go to Boof / Clarke for bowling him in such short spells (and huge credit to Lyon, Harris and Siddle for providing the backup). You wonder what careers people like Bond or Tait would have had if they'd been used that way.

Posted by blah_blah on (February 16, 2014, 0:34 GMT)

@Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth I saw all of them except Marshall live (even had the honour of Joel Garner treading on my foot when I ran on the field at the end of play at a WSC game!) All the WI bowlers were downright scary, physically big, and the ball looked like a small plum in their hands. But Andy Roberts seemed the scariest, especially when he broke Hooke's jaw. Thomson was well past his best when I saw him, but Lillee was intimidating with his mo and his aggressive demeanour. Craig McDermott was quite intimidating in his first few Tests against the WI's with his raw pace. Johnson is up there with the best of them though. Morkel and Harris were matching MJ's speed at times, but MJs action combined with the pace makes him unplayable. It's very unfair bagging out the English and Saffy batsmen as it takes a talented batsmen at the absolute top of their form to combat that type of bowling. You will NOT get a top 6 like that in any international team unless you pick a World XI.

Posted by disco_bob on (February 16, 2014, 0:32 GMT)

@ModernUmpiresPlz, MJ has indicated that his 32 year old body appreciates the short sharp shock spells, I think he's just happy to have finally reached the potential that Lillee so famously said he had.

Posted by izzidole on (February 16, 2014, 0:31 GMT)

If Mitchell Johnson keeps capturing 10 wickets or more in every game I reckon he will not only end up as the greatest fastbowler in the history of Australian cricket but also as one of the greatest fast bowler of all time in the history of world cicket. He is only 32 years old and I am sure he will be available to continue playing the game for atleast another 5 years. After making his test debut in 2007 against Sri Lanka promising much but delivering very little all these years he just made it in the last ashes series against England due to injuries to frontline fast bowlers Pattinson, Starc and Bird who were the favourites. With the return of the three players including Cummins from injury who wrecked South Africa on the last tour in 2011 the aussie bowling attack is going to prove even deadlier in the near future. Siddle and Harris might find it very difficuilt to hold on to their places in the team for too long.

Posted by disco_bob on (February 16, 2014, 0:29 GMT)

Johnson is ushering in the next decade of total Australian domination. He could not have peaked at a better time, because now Australia can let the still fragile bodies of Pattinson and Cummins fully mature while MJ destroys all before him. Meanwhile a new generation of youngsters will want to emulate this and will be ready to come through when Patto and Cummins are peaking.

Not only that but by having such firepower in the bowling it allows our new bowlers some extra breathing space so that there is room for Hughes to grow into his role, and Test newcomers like Marsh and Doolan, don't have the weight of the world on them, perhaps that is why Khawaja could not cope, too much was expected of him. Who knows, maybe the serial underachiever Watto may come good.

Posted by lesamourai on (February 16, 2014, 0:18 GMT)

I reckon Holding was probably also congratulating Mitch on moving past his total wickets. MJ was on 249 - equal with Holding - before his 5-for this innings. Great bowlers always know these stats and are quick to congratulate those moving past their own landmarks.

Posted by swells64 on (February 16, 2014, 0:06 GMT)

I have seen Dennis Lillie, Jeff Thompson, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Michael Holding, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Alan Donald in my lifetime. None bowled the short ball with the same consistent, menace, pace and accuracy as Mitchell Johnson has in the last six months.

I have never seen batsmen so rattled by a single bowler. Sure, the great West Indian pace battery was probably the best ever, but this is just one man delivering this carnage. This has been summer that cricket fans will never forget. The summer of Mitchell.

Posted by CM1000 on (February 15, 2014, 23:59 GMT)

@ Sauron, I've been watching cricket since the late seventies. Even then, past his very best, Jeff Thomson was very very quick and vey very scary. Michael Holding was absolutely awesome, but the bowlers I would have been more scared of were Marshall, Ambrose and Garner. Garner was not as quick, but the bounce he got from his immense height was frightening. In my view Johnson is BY FAR the most frightening since that era @ Flat track bullies, I really don't think it would matter if an opposing side had never heard of Johnson - in his current form he would cause havoc in any batting order in history, even if they had no pre-conceptions about him.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 23:36 GMT)

Glenn McGrath used to nominate a bunny. MoJo doesnt need to. They are ALL his bunnies!

Posted by Tyson_1960 on (February 15, 2014, 23:09 GMT)

There is going to be a lot of young fellas all over the world trying to do exactly what MJ is doing. Raw fast bowler serving it up to the world's best, this is what keeps test cricket alive.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 23:04 GMT)

Sauron, i have seen all of the bowlers you mentioned live. Jeff Thomson was, by far, the quickest without any doubt. Mitchell Johnston, in his current form, is a lot more accurate so he is more effective. He is also startlingly consistent at the moment.

Posted by chicko1983 on (February 15, 2014, 22:50 GMT)

@Sauron_of_middle_earth - you can keep kholi, pujara, and dhawan - three vastly overrated batsmen for potentially the greatest fast bowler of the 2010s (given we will get another 2-3 more years of this delight as Johnson stays fit). Batsmen keep you in games but bowlers win it for you. Steve smith, davey Warner, Alex doolan and Phil Hughes will do just fine for us, so we don't need those batsmen thanks.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 22:49 GMT)

The best bowlers hunt in packs - Lillee &thommo were awesome, and starting with Andy Roberts, the WIs had 3-4 at all times, there was nowhere to hide. Harris & Siddle are not in that class, but are mighty good, and leave the opposition little room when Johnson comes off, and Lyons chimes in with important wickets and holds up an end. As the man says himself, it's a team. With Mitch as the pointy end of the wedge.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 22:39 GMT)

I love SA team but I think they will suffer whitewash this series unless weather plays any part in it. Good Luck SA.

Posted by kepler22b on (February 15, 2014, 22:36 GMT)


I saw Lillee and Thomson (I was at the MCG when the WI were 4-10).

MJ is like Thommo but better. I actually compare MJ with Garner who also had the ability to get the ball into the grill from just short of a good length.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 22:18 GMT)

Johnson was truly amazing, and is very obviously at the top of his game. But this was still a team effort, with the usual back-up from Rhino, Sidds and Gazza. On another day, the spoils will be theirs. If SA bounce back with a plan to counter Johnson, they then have to face up to the other three, all of whom are world class bowlers. And Australia's fielding was just brilliant, with Doolan, Smith, Marsh and Clarke all taking great catches (and don't forget Johnson himself). Australia is in a very comfortable zone at present,and have the team and back-up to make it remain so for a long time.

Posted by Jimmyvida on (February 15, 2014, 21:07 GMT)

And somebody said that the IPL was useless. Well, it took M. Johnson who did not look like playing for Australia, gave him a facelift and simply made him a wrecker. Maybe all by himself now, he is a 'wrecking crew.'

Posted by Jimmyvida on (February 15, 2014, 20:59 GMT)

Is Johnson better than Wagner. Maybe no. Johnson bowls short spells. Wagner goes on and on. Johnson attacks stumps and body. Wagner bowls wide and wider off off stumps.Johnson tries to get you out. Wagner makes you get yourself out. Johnson scares the heck out of you. Wagner makes you sick.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 20:32 GMT)

With Trent Boult and Neil Wagner in great form for NZ, the stocks of left arm seam bowlers in world cricket are currently probably the healthiest they have been in many years. Would be interesting to see Johnson and Boult go head to head as to who would have the better strike rate, average etc...

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 20:30 GMT)

ironically this article illustrates how easily cricket is misunderstood. Mitch isnt the fastest bowler around (Milner is faster), his potency is a function of his amazing line allied to good pace and a 'heavy' ball. And he doesnt have a 'slingy' action, it is much more of a trapdoor action along the lines of Sylvester Clarke and Wayne Daniel where a highly powered upper torso drives deceptive pace and disconcerting bounce. He doesnt sling it like J.Thommo - he just happens to be about as scary in his own way

Posted by DerbyshireAussie on (February 15, 2014, 20:20 GMT)

One of the most ferocious fast bowling spells I have seen in a long time Good on yer Mitch

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 20:11 GMT)

MJs in world sports are some champions.

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 15, 2014, 20:10 GMT)

@NorthPacifictragic If Clarke hadn't taken him out of the attack I think he would have beaten that today. Imagine if you tried to take Holding out of the attack when he had 5 wickets, 12 for the match and the opposition were 8 down in the final innings on a pitch that was breaking up, up and down, left and right. Good luck with that!

Posted by Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth on (February 15, 2014, 20:02 GMT)

If I was an Indian selector and had the right to trade players - I'd trade Kohli, Pujara, and Dhawan (the best 3 in my opinion) for Mitchell Jhonson. That's how good he is in this kind of form. To make ABD (who I believe will be the greatest batsman of the post Tendulkar era) and Amla jump like that - WOW!

The last Ashes and this test - greatest exhibit of fierce fast bowling I've seen live (started following cricket post 1998 when I was 9). I've seen recordings of M. Holding, DK. Lillee, J. Thomson, J. Garner and M. Marshall, but never live (which is why I don't want to compare though they all seem supersonic) - Mitch is beyond any reference I have. Pak fans - I've seen S. Akhtar and W. Younis come close but this still feels different.

Perhaps anyone who's seen them all 'live' can? Comment if you have. It'll be an interesting read.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 19:59 GMT)

Ferocious on the field and humble off it. Thats the way its supposed to be. Take a bow, MJ! That was the most devastating piece of fast bowling I have ever seen.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 19:51 GMT)

Ferocious on the field and humble off it. Thats the way its supposed to be. Take a bow, MJ!! It was the most devastating piece of fast bowling I have ever seen. You rock.

Posted by NorthPacifictragic on (February 15, 2014, 19:50 GMT)

OK Mitch, there is your next challenge. Michael Holding's best match figures are 14/149.

Posted by analyseabhishek on (February 15, 2014, 19:50 GMT)

Big Jacques got his retirement timing spot on!!

Posted by Flat_Track_bullies on (February 15, 2014, 19:33 GMT)

I think its partly down to England's pathetic batting that his stock has gone up that much. What cameras around the world show english batsmen jumping up and down scared, has actually scarred other watching it on TV.

South Africa almost lost first test against India two months ago! They're not as good as they're made out....especially now without big Jacques..

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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