Australia in Sri Lanka 2011 September 21, 2011

Johnson 'hasn't lost his mojo' - Clarke

ESPNcricinfo staff

Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, does not believe Mitchell Johnson is past his best, but he has conceded the selectors will face a tough decision on which fast men to play in the first Test in South Africa. Johnson picked up just six wickets at an average of 52.16 during the series in Sri Lanka this month, and was easily the least effective of the fast bowlers.

Peter Siddle's hard work in his only appearance, during the final Test in Colombo, earned him a four-wicket haul, while Trent Copeland was steady and promising in his debut series. Ryan Harris was the stand-out performer with 11 victims before he missed the final match through injury, and if he is fit for the Tests in South Africa in November, he will be an automatic selection.

That means there will be a squeeze of at least four men for three positions and the selectors, one of whom will be Clarke, face a difficult choice. Johnson has a good record in South Africa, but during the Sri Lanka Tests his angle across the right-handers and into the left-handers became predictable, although Clarke believed his strike bowler had toiled hard without luck.

"I don't think Mitch has lost his mojo," Clarke said after the draw at the SSC, which secured the series 1-0 for Australia. "I still think he's as good a strike weapon as there is in international cricket. I think he's a match-winner with bat and with ball, when he's at his best. Mitch has got some time now if he wants to go away, whether he gets away from the game or if he wants to work on some things.

"He still bowls good pace. I think he bowled well throughout this series and didn't have as much luck as a lot of the other bowlers. You would have seen a lot of play and misses off Mitch. Conditions didn't really swing as well - he got reverse swing - but I don't think you saw any bowler throughout the series swing the new ball all that much.

"Sidds was awesome, again, grabbed his opportunity, made the most of it. It's going to be interesting come the first Test in South Africa for all the bowlers to work out which three quicks, if we go three quicks, are the best three for that first Test match. Sidds has done himself nothing but favours but I still think Mitch is a huge player for us. I think anybody that thinks Mitch is past his best would be very silly."

One thing going in Johnson's favour is the memory of how he performed in South Africa on Australia's last Test tour there, in 2008-09. He was fearsome in the first Test in Johannesburg, swinging the ball appreciably, and finished equal with Dale Steyn as the leading wicket taker in a series won by the Australians.

The conditions in South Africa will be vastly different to Sri Lanka but there are unlikely to be any major changes to Australia's squad after their consistent performances over the past month. Clarke said he was proud of how the players had gelled together in their first series under a new captain, and in the shadow of the Argus report, which was released at the start of the tour.

"There's been a lot of stuff off the field as well that the playing group have had to deal with throughout this series," he said. "I think we've handled it really well so we deserve a lot of credit for that. Every single player has done nothing but grab their opportunity with both hands.

"You've got a guy running drinks in Usman Khawaja who batted like a genius the whole series, got a hundred in the tour match and was really unlucky to miss out in the (third) Test match. In regards to the cricket we've got coming up. We've got a lot of tough cricket. We've got to be ready for that as well. This is a great start. I heard that we're now ranked four in Test cricket, which is fantastic and I'm really happy with that but it's a long journey."

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  • kieran on September 24, 2011, 1:10 GMT

    @tdobbo: All those bowlers are quality players and some are very very talented at a young age. If you were implying the opposite, then I'm afraid we may be on a different wavelength. McKay in particular I imagine would be quite successful in county cricket. As for Mitch, he has mojo, it's just that it disappears as quick as it appears. You don't take 100 test wickets in 23 matches without a little something.

  • Anthony on September 23, 2011, 10:52 GMT

    I agree with you HatsforBats, all names mentioned would struggle to play County Cricket. As for Timid Mitch how can you lose something that you never had in the first place..

  • kieran on September 23, 2011, 6:53 GMT

    @Meety: like you, I doubt Harris will be around in 2 years time. The problem with all those names is the very limited amount of 1st class experience. Barring Butterworth (who is 28-ish and an all-rounder anway, like Faulkner) they're all quite young (19-23) and mostly haven't even played a dozen games! It is hard to judge the tassie kids considering their pitch last year. I'm from NSW so of course I've seen Cummins/Starc/Hazlewood the most, but they definitely look like they will develop into very good and fast bowlers if they can keep the injuries at bay. As far as George & McKay, they haven't been that great in the last 2 seasons. Most will probably disagree, but I rate Siddle. He's still young, we know he has good stamina & aggression, he's quick, got good natural movement into the right-hander and can swing it. I think he'll develop well over the next 2 years and will end up being very similar bowler to Harris. No need for wholesale changes.

  • Andrew on September 22, 2011, 23:51 GMT

    @Beertjie - I don't see Harris making it to 2013 mate. I think Copeland will be very tricky in Eng, bear in mind that Zaheer & Kumar hardly reached 130 kph (Kumar struggled to reach 125kph), & they looked dangerous all series (well Zaheer did for his one & only session). So Copeland being young is a definate (barring injury), Coulter-Nile, Butterworth, Faulkner all would be worth a look by then, a young QLDer who I think is excellent (but often injured, how often do you have to say that?) is Ben Cutting, who I think will be brilliant in England. Cummins is a hot prospect, a real speed demon, but - his injured, Hazlewood looked the real deal, (injured), Starc (same, except is back playing again with mixed results), which leaves Pattinson. I think he is worth a look, but I have a gut feeling there is a young Sth Ozzy (Richardson) with one FULL season could jump the Queue ahead of all of them. Plenty of options (not forgetting George & McKay!

  • david on September 22, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    AMD was your line up not during some part of the last ashes series not Bollinger, Harris, Johnson and Siddle. all were dropped at one time or another,apart from Harris who only played the 2 nd / 3rd test before getting injured in the u guys would say struth. get a grip u have no bowlers other than Harris.with watson the 2nd best a long way behind him. dpk

  • Dummy4 on September 22, 2011, 14:52 GMT

    johnson is a best pacer.he will bounce back............

  • david on September 22, 2011, 12:53 GMT

    play MJ if you want to loose in SA. australia do not a bowler other than harris a leader with genuine class. if he gets injured ( when he gets injured ) the aussies will struggle. were as england could put 5/6 bowlers who could lead the line. most of the aussies pacers are more like 3/4 change. i would put watson ahead of most of them its that bad. dpk

  • Mashuq on September 22, 2011, 12:32 GMT

    For England 2013 I'll go out on a limb and pick the following 5: Harris Pattinson Hazlewood Starc Cummins The trick is who bring and when to do so. I go for Pattinson in SA (for MJ) and Siddle for Copeland (as third seamer). Take MJ along as injuury cover. Then against Kiwis at the Gabba keep him in mind and see how the others on my wish-list are doing. Someone else needs an opportunity this summer. As far as spin is concerned please leave Beer at home (if he plays, he'll be another McGain). Take two offies (Hauritz needs to go and play sometime soon too). However, when it comes to playing spinners against India on the dead tracks, besides one of the offies, consider O'Keefe/Smith and let them play as all-rounders against that weak attack. That way we might get a good result (but please no Pidge-talk about 4-zip whitewashes!).

  • Martin on September 22, 2011, 12:32 GMT

    Johnson's bowling woes have been attributed to his wrist at delivery, his mental state and now his plain bad luck. In this last series he got six wickets in 3 games, 3 of those tail enders and 2 of those number 11. Unlucky. No one is doubting he has bowled brilliantly in the past. He has won some matches on his own back. If he keeps playing he might just win a match again for Australia. He might. Or not. Hopefully he gets lucky.

  • Anthony on September 22, 2011, 11:32 GMT

    I agree, England team must be shaking in their shoes at the thought of facing up the Aussie strike force of Timid Mitch and Doug the Thug again in 2013. That would be 8 innings victories in two series I'm thinking...

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