Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day

Meet the other Mitchell Johnson

England had hitherto known only a docile and inaccurate Mitchell Johnson. After the second day at Perth, they realise just how destructive he can be

Peter English at the WACA

December 17, 2010

Comments: 66 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson savoured his morning successes, Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day, December 17, 2010
After a floundering start to the Ashes, Mitchell Johnson has re-discovered devastating form © Getty Images

England, we'd like to introduce you to the other Mitchell Johnson. Not the meek, erratic bowler your batsmen have enjoyed so much over the past year and a half, but the version who on his day is the most destructive in the world.

Those days have been increasingly rare lately, but during a week of intensive training in the WACA nets he rid himself of his inferior alter-ego and rediscovered his action. Today he found a way back into the series for Australia. Last week in Adelaide he was unplayable, and dropped for the first time in his Test career; this time it was England who had no idea where the ball was going.

Finally he was the bowler who could gain swing at high speed, instead of being the fragile guy England's batsmen didn't rate. They had no reason to - until today. Six wickets for 38 runs, including 4 for 7 in 27 balls before lunch, changed minds and momentum.

Johnson had made it easy for people to give up on him. No bowler has been as frustrating after promising so much against South Africa over two series in 2008-09. Having shown he could be a wrecker, he became a wreck, spraying balls, dropping his arm and doubting his method. He was so bad even the Australian selectors gave up on him. Dropping him has reignited his career, a common theme among exceptional athletes.

Sent to Perth a week ago, Johnson worked with Troy Cooley, the bowling coach, and remodelled his action successfully. He started to run in like a medium pacer instead of a sprinter, with all his energy focused on the crescendo through the crease during a huge delivery stride. It helped make his body taller, his left arm higher, and put his wrist behind the ball.

Partway through the unexpected renovation something familiar started to happen - he began to swing the ball. Like snowflakes at Christmas, everyone got really excited. The Australians became delirious when it occurred in a match and Johnson's spirit swept through a team that started to believe again.

Before the series Johnson said he wouldn't bother about swing and a match later he was out of the side. Plenty of illogical things have been said by the Australians during their extended slump, but this was among the craziest comments. When Johnson shapes the ball in he becomes a monster because the batsmen can't leave with confidence. The South Africans found that out here two years ago, when he started his summer of devastation with a spell of 5 for 2 in 21 balls that turned into 8 for 61.

This performance didn't do as much numerical damage, but it will be priceless if it turns into a victory for Australia. The morning started like the past eight of the series, with England in control and Australia fumbling. Johnson, who delivered two controlled overs late yesterday, was saved until after Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus had failed to breakthrough.

Alastair Cook has been an immoveable object for most of the series, but Johnson forced him to slice to gully, where Michael Hussey collected a smart catch. For the next four wickets Johnson didn't bother enlisting his team-mates as he delivered a series of brutal inswingers around 140kph. Jonathan Trott attempted a drive from a full ball and was caught in front when surprised by the swerve. Three balls later Kevin Pietersen, fresh from a double-century, erred in similar fashion.

Suddenly Johnson had 3 for 4 in two overs and he pumped his fist in a mixture of relief at himself and anger at his critics. No matter how high he flies, he must not forget how awful he has been over the past year and half - and how to rectify the problems when they reappear. He had to wait until the middle of a major series to do remedial work that could have been completed in the off-season or between series. It is the most stunning turnaround.

Paul Collingwood somehow survived a fierce bouncer that narrowly missed his gloves and helmet, but couldn't escape the follow-up full ball. Another late inswinger resulted in another lbw shout that was initially given not out. The Australians challenged and the replays showed Collingwood's bat stuck in its downswing about 30cm from the ball when it crashed into his pad. England were now the ones in crisis at 5 for 98 and after a nine-over spell Johnson was given a rest.

He returned almost an hour after lunch and finished off the innings when he sent Chris Tremlett's off stump cart-wheeling and watched James Anderson glide to first slip. Anderson and Johnson have been trading verbals over the past month, but during the last two days Johnson has backed up his talk. England now know all about him - and don't like him.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by BuddyLee on (December 18, 2010, 11:01 GMT)

Started reading this before today's play, and just finished. With England 5 down, it looks like Johnson turnaround has lifted the entire team for the series. Cooley is a genius if this is his doing - those were quality wickets, and MJ was often unplayable through the air.

Posted by vpk23 on (December 18, 2010, 6:19 GMT)


Posted by   on (December 18, 2010, 4:48 GMT)

Its a shame we dont get to see aggressive fast bowling as often...........but whn we do its really satisfying.........Johnson is still not at his destructive best....but he is very close......sad truth is.....no 1 knows which Johnson will show up in the second innings.....Dale Styen, Johnson and Khemar Roach are probabely the only truly destructive fast bowlers left in modern cricket.......

Posted by JamalAJackson on (December 18, 2010, 3:49 GMT)

@Salina Ara, another difference is that Mitchell Johnson has actually got a century and Dale Steyn has only got one fifty.

Posted by the_complete_batsman on (December 18, 2010, 3:38 GMT)

Anyone who says Johnson is better than Steyn is kidding themselves. Johnson is good, brilliant on his day, but simply not in Steyn's class.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2010, 2:21 GMT)

On his day, Dale Styn is way more destructive than MJ or anyone else. But the biggest difference is, DS has his day every time he bowls.

Posted by Australia17594 on (December 17, 2010, 23:43 GMT)

@dozbo Yep, Johnson sucks when he's bad but when he swings he is THE BEST in the world better than steyn. He can't be lucky what in Sth Africa and twice in Perth with the swing.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 21:47 GMT)


Honestly, you musn't have watch the game, or the series, or even understand cricket all that well. Pitches don't produce swing, they produce deviation. Johnson bowled in swing friendly conditions in Brisbane, where Anderson got the ball to talk, but Johnson was bowling straight as a ruler. The conditions at the WACA is also conducive to swing, but it has nothing to do with the pitch, obviously. I agree that we have to be careful when analysing cause and effect, but in this instance, the amount of swing Johnson is getting can easily be attributed to the change in his bowling style. It is basic physics, really.

Posted by evenflow_1990 on (December 17, 2010, 21:06 GMT)

this was some serious swing bowling. the one that got collingwood was an absolute ripper. hopefully he won't repeat it because i want england to win the ashes!

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 21:00 GMT)

do agree with peter i have seen real mitch.

Posted by alexczarn on (December 17, 2010, 20:35 GMT)

Yay Mitch is back with bat and ball!!! I love him!

Posted by KTKAndy on (December 17, 2010, 20:23 GMT)

It's a wonderful moment in test cricket. An hour before Australia were no where near in any kind of contention. But Mitchel Johnson brought the team into the competition within an hour. What a heart-breaking performance! Go Mitchel Go...

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 20:11 GMT)

aussies shld win this match...

Posted by tim72 on (December 17, 2010, 19:47 GMT)

i think that changes NEVER happen so quickly, and they didnt here. my profession involves analysis of complex cause and effect relationships and VERY often i see incorrect correlation of these things- i am seeing the same here by the author and many of the respondents. The CAUSE in this test is not MJ's action, or a resurgence of form. It is very clearly the pitch and conditions. MJ has benefitted from favourable pitches on several occasions whilst the rest of the very average australian bowling lineup has struggled to take wickets on virtually every surface that hasnt been favourable. MJ is a cut above the average, meaning he takes the lions share of the opponent's wickets, giving him good numbers, but what good is being the best of a poor lot?. I shudder to think what McGrath wouldve done yesterday. 10/80 maybe?..who knows. The point is that this pitch has had 20 wickets for 450. lets not nuthug MJ. he bowled well. the pitch did the rest.

Posted by Stevo_ on (December 17, 2010, 19:38 GMT)

Those 3 LBW were 3 quality balls, some of the best I've seen this year.

Posted by cyniket on (December 17, 2010, 18:32 GMT)

@monshkb did you really say england can't be no.1 because they are flat track bullies. Have a look at the rankings mate, the ultimate flat track bullies are no.1. england definitely aren't flat track bullies, they have to bat in england which one of the most difficult places to bat. Mitch bowled superbly, that's the value of a quality fast bowler.

Posted by Beertjie on (December 17, 2010, 18:28 GMT)

For myself, I'll gladly eat humble pie. Just keep it going Mitch, but I agree with @Okakaboka - it's going to cause some selection problems even if we win at the WACA. For me Hilfenhaus and Siddle must both go and be replaced by O'Keefe and McDonald (subject to fitness). Reasons: playing Hughes, Ponting, Clarke and Smith (walking wickets is too strong, but you catch my drift) requires back-up 'batsmen' like Mitch, O'Keefe and McDonald. THEN it'll be game on for the Ashes!

Posted by spiritwithin on (December 17, 2010, 17:48 GMT)

so much talk on england becoming the next big thing..huh..thats y cricket pundits especially from england should'nt jump to the gun so quickly,one performance and their media started jumping,aussie may not have mcgrath,warne,gilly and co. but they r not like the typical english side who surrenders meekly..

Posted by Silloh on (December 17, 2010, 17:35 GMT)

West Indian fan but following this series live in Trinidad. Last night was fantastic seeing the swinging Johnson and the Aussies of old, including the sledging effect. Don't expect London bridge to fall that easily as these guys are jelling as a team. But what really are Hughes and Smth doing on the Australian team ?? Okay maybe Smith, but Johnson needs to give Hughes some good and advice ...and sledging.

Posted by DrDamo on (December 17, 2010, 17:14 GMT)

Good to see Mitch fire. Be interesting to see whether this turns Australia's fortunes and makes a series out of the last 3 tests now.

Posted by Pacelover on (December 17, 2010, 16:46 GMT)

This is a wake up call for Englands batsmen, since the first day of this series until now we have had it easy, facing out of sorts fast bowlers and a spinner that may have well have cut out the middle man and bowled at the boundry rope. It must have been such a relief after the nightmares of Mohammed amir hooping it around both ways at 90+mph. Paul Collingwood unfortunately has no answer to the ball coming into him (off pitch or seam) Amir and asif had him a few times like that, Shane watson in Adelaide and this time, while it was a very good ball from Johnson (i have to say its good to see him back, through gritted teeth) he should not have missed it by that much. England will lose this test, Melbourne should be a draw and we need a bunsen in Sydney. It can happen to the best batting line ups though just look at India.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 16:11 GMT)

Seriously hostile spell of fast bowling. If there was any inspiration that Aus needed to believe they can win the Ashes, then this is it! 61 and a 6-for form your strike bowler. Can't ask for more!

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (December 17, 2010, 16:00 GMT)

lol@justsometurkey's comment.

Posted by Finn92 on (December 17, 2010, 15:31 GMT)

@MONASHKB Mate don't talk to me about England being flat track bullies when they emerged victorious against Pakistan, who aren't the best team in the world but they had Asif and Aamer firing and in some of the toughest batting conditions of the last few years they won. Johnson can only bowl in Perth, they may win this test but wait til Melbourne when he's back to his inconsistent self. And if you say Steyn is good in all conditions, he was made to look a child in the second test in India this year, Sehwag smashed him to all corners

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 17, 2010, 15:27 GMT)

Anyone who says that Johnson's bowling today was due to good luck obviously wasn't watching the game OR reading the commentary on this site. Credit where credit is due please guys.

Posted by PutMarshyOn on (December 17, 2010, 14:24 GMT)

It never ceases to amaze me how these wonderful athletes can lose their shape. I remember the great Imran Kahn having to rebuild his action, and even the Pigeon delivering a really ordinary match Edgbaston '97 when he didn't have the metronome correctly calibrated. It happens to batsman too - look at Ponting & Clarke.

Let's give the selectors some credit as well. They got it spot on with both Johnson & Hilfenhaus. Neither got it right in Brisbane, both looked far better here. Hilfenhaus deserved better, maybe next dig.

Bell & Watson have looked as good as anybody but neither has yet made the big contribution. It has to come you'd say - with the seamers on top the fate of this match could easily depend on which of them delivers.

Can't say I think all the verbals are needed. All a bit after-school-behind-the-changing-rooms for my liking. If you can't let the scoreboard talk for you what have you got to talk about?

May the best team win.

Posted by Jimmers on (December 17, 2010, 13:30 GMT)

I'm an England fan, but I still prefer a world with an on-song Mitchell Johnson in it. Whoever you support, good cricket is good cricket.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 13:21 GMT)

Nice piece, I but disagree with your assessment that Mitchel Johnson "must not forget how awful he was over the last year and a half" This is a careless comment, for to fly high he certainly MUST forget and move on to realise the enormous potential he has.

Posted by Legster on (December 17, 2010, 12:44 GMT)

Credit to him, he bowled beautifully.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 12:30 GMT)

Finally. Welcome Back Mitch. So, England, where were we.

Posted by dessertfox on (December 17, 2010, 12:20 GMT)

Go Mitch! Just remember you don't have to try to blast them out with raw pace all the time. Long live the inswinger!

Posted by Okakaboka on (December 17, 2010, 12:16 GMT)

We haven't seen this Mitchell Johnston for at least a year and a half.....even if 10 kms slower. So who coached him? Go figure! This performance will make structuring the bowling attack more complex. Many of us are eating humble pie. Just hope he can repeat the performance. Oh....Ponting has to go...what on earth was doing with Peter Siddle...whose tactics were these...Siddle's??...then he is not up to test cricket. Ponting's ......must lose the Captaincy!!! Very low percentage tactic given the circumstance.

Posted by MONASHKB on (December 17, 2010, 12:08 GMT)

Finally, reality has exposed England as the flat track bullies they really are. The moment they had to fight against quality they had no answers. England will never challenge the number one test ranking while their best players are only good, honest tryers when conditions suit. They lack champion individuals who perform at their best when the going gets tough (eg. Steyn, S. Waugh, Lara, Tendulkar, Hadlee, Imran, Murali, WG Grace - yes, they once had one......).

Posted by WilliamFranklin on (December 17, 2010, 11:59 GMT)

Well as a bowler he should take some wickets in a series. We all know a couple of bad overs and Mitch has a mental breakdown and then it's five/six runs an over time for the Batsmen.

Have to say the sledging is pitiful considering he was so meek in Brisbane and didn't utter a word.

Posted by David47 on (December 17, 2010, 11:50 GMT)

Well done Mitch. I've been one of you're harshest critics - I'm glad you've proved me wrong. Now please don't fall back to being the Mitch of the last 18 months. Great fast bowlers do what you did today on a regular basis (think McGrath). Again, well done.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 11:44 GMT)

Amazing what one week of rest and self introspection can do to a fast bowler. Mitch was always a quality bowler and will be. The reactions of the pundits and media was overhyped. Left arm inswing bowlers are a rare breed, we need him to do well for the sake of world cricket.

Posted by inefekt on (December 17, 2010, 11:43 GMT)

"When Johnson shapes the ball in he becomes a monster because the batsmen can't leave with confidence. The South Africans found that out here two years ago..."

Umm actually no, that's not where he discovered the art of inswing. All those wickets were taken with his natural line across the right hander and he didn't start swinging the ball in until the return series in South Africa.

Posted by Bigbanger666 on (December 17, 2010, 11:39 GMT)

He certainly bowled the spell of the ashes so far. Test is now on the Poms to see if they can bounce back or if they will do the usual choke when behind.

Posted by atul2884 on (December 17, 2010, 11:38 GMT)

So good to see Mitch back into business with fiery spell which will not only boost his confidence but has give Oz a chance after the Adelaid disaster. Now I will blame the Oz senior Batsmen Especially puntter and Clark, the way they got out Today if in case Oz loose the match and the Ashes to the Proteas

My call would be Why the selectors are not picking White and Ferguson in the XI leaving Puntter and Clark out

Posted by anver777 on (December 17, 2010, 11:37 GMT)

Before he was dropped in the 2nd test, I commented that give him a break & bring him back in latter stage of the series & it is working now............... we all watching a FRESH Johnson !!! shinning with Bat & Bowl.......well played & keep going MITCH !!!!

Posted by nzcricket174 on (December 17, 2010, 11:27 GMT)

Welcome back to international cricket Mitchell Johnson.

Posted by spritzertime on (December 17, 2010, 11:16 GMT)

Its scary to see how quick Troy Cooly has turned Johnson around, but he has been there for the last year while Mitchell struggeled so I must say I dont understand why it took so long. However its great to see him swinging the ball again Wasim Akram could do this and when he had it going he was unplayable Johnson was close to that today so I hope whatever Coolly did to get this kind of result he wrote it down somwhere. Great bowling today Aussies that spell may well get the ashes back if this kind off bowling continues

Posted by Tom_Bowler on (December 17, 2010, 11:13 GMT)

Just when you're preparing to fill in the grave the corpse twitches! Johnson was exceptional today. Apart from Cook who probably could have left his ball alone he got the rest with top class deliveries. The first four came in such a rush that there wasn't much time to adjust tactics but in the second innings I think the English batsmen will be taking guard eighteen inches outside their crease for Mitchell. Well done to Harris too who played a decent second violin. England's turn to respond now.

Posted by takenaback on (December 17, 2010, 11:05 GMT)

One must remember when Johnson took 8 for 61 against South Africa he only took 3 for 98 in the second innings of only 4 wickets to fall and South Africa won the match. Don't count on him to replicate his first-innings mastery. Australia needs somebody else to stand up as well.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 11:03 GMT)

welldone mitch you gave the perfect answer to your all critics,brilliant allround performence,now aussie are on top

Posted by backwardpoint on (December 17, 2010, 10:55 GMT)

Lovely lovely bowling Johnson. Really bowled like a dream today. If Aussies win this match, its all credit to you. A fighting 62 while batting and a 6 for now. Brilliant effort. Aussies might win this series, yet

Posted by dozbo on (December 17, 2010, 10:54 GMT)

One 6 wicket haul does not change the fact that he is the most over-rated and inconsistent bowler in test cricket. I don't like it when he does well because it all seems too much like luck to me. A quality test match bowler should know where the ball is going and have a back up plan if plan A doesn't work. He seems to just hurl it as fast as he can and hope for the best - fortunately for him it all clicked into place today, but how will he go in the second innings? His action is a series of compromises that have to happen in sequence and at the right times for him to bowl well. I'm still convinced that the Mitchell Johnson we saw at Brisbane is the real one and the one we saw Today is the impostor. time will tell.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 10:50 GMT)

Mitchell Johnson is back ! ! ! But d best is yet 2 come . . . Come on Johnson , aussies desperately need these kinda performances 2 win ASHES this time . . .

Posted by squidhead on (December 17, 2010, 10:46 GMT)

Credit where it's due. Well done to both Johnson and Cooley, and to Ponting as well who saw something a lot of us were missing. I thought he was gone and his recall after a week "off" (which wasn't off at all it seems) one of the daftest decisions yet. Hope this Mitch sticks around a while, he looked pretty decent.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 10:40 GMT)

Fantastic bowling from Johnson today. He looked lethal from the get go. Hopefully we should win this test and then it's game on in Melbourne!

Posted by Shadrachr on (December 17, 2010, 10:36 GMT)

Keep rocking..

Many think Australia is over. But just think the state of Aus b4 1999 wc. its not in so good state. But yet the won the world cup.

Team Aus will rise up at any time

Posted by jonesy2 on (December 17, 2010, 10:28 GMT)

england have run into the real australia, keep it up.

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (December 17, 2010, 10:26 GMT)

He's just an enigma and Aus look a different attack when he's bowling well and getting swing.

Posted by popcorn on (December 17, 2010, 10:20 GMT)

Yeah,Mitch! Ponting's go-to man! Brilliant Selection by Greg Chappell, Jamie Cox, David Boon and Andrew Hilditch! And to read rubbish from so-called cricketers - both ex and current,and commentators - how can you bring him back when he hasn't even played a game in between Gabba and Adelaide? Eat your words,you non -believers! You forget - 8 for 61 at the WACA against South africa, and 6 for 38 at the WACA toiday! Here are the keys to the city of Perth,Mitch! You and Jessica go out and celebrate! England batsmen,NOW do you know who Mitch is?

Posted by Malakaran on (December 17, 2010, 10:19 GMT)

glorious return by johnson. keep going

Posted by handyandy on (December 17, 2010, 10:18 GMT)

He has copped a lot over the last 18 months ... hopefully he will now push on, win a couple of tests, and silence those critics forever.

Posted by WilliamFranklin on (December 17, 2010, 10:15 GMT)

Well done Mitch, you managed to take some wickets! Love the way he's all mouth now too. How very Australian of him, considering he looked like he was going to cry in Brisbane. Strangely he was rather quiet then.

He's done a job today but you know he's only a couple of bad overs away from a 'mental' breakdown.

Hopefully the Australian 'supporters' might bother to turn up for the rest of the match now, unlike at Brisbane and Adelaide.

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 17, 2010, 10:14 GMT)

I would like to add that this work on his run-up and action should have been done before the series against Pakistan in England.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2010, 10:14 GMT)

Interesting match. Hope he discovers his groove again in the second innings and wins the Test for Oz and the MOM for himself. He's done enough already for the latter.

Posted by hashabjp on (December 17, 2010, 10:11 GMT)

great work by johnson... but ricky and clark really spoilt it .... Ricky we love you but you have to go ...take a break.

Posted by vismaya.agarwal on (December 17, 2010, 10:09 GMT)

Awesome bowling mate..!! this is the real Mitch that all of us were missing.. and by all of us, i mean the Australian fans, not the English :) Go Mitch.. Go Aussies..

Posted by justsometurkey on (December 17, 2010, 10:08 GMT)

Great we have the secret. Lock Mitchell Johnson in the nets and only bring him out to play cricket! :)

Posted by six-hitter on (December 17, 2010, 10:08 GMT)

This is why the selectors stuck with Johnson. When he's up he takes the team with him. nothing was happening today until Mitch got going, then the rest of the team got going. Well done Mitch.

Posted by Webba84 on (December 17, 2010, 10:07 GMT)

Welcome back, Mitch, we've missed you.

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 17, 2010, 10:05 GMT)

I was very sceptical about whether he could have turned his game around and fixed up his action and run-up in such a short time, but he's done it somehow. Easily the finest spell of the series so far, a quite incredible turnaround really. Now we have to bat really well tomorrow and put the game beyond England's reach. Well done Mitch.

Posted by KingofRedLions on (December 17, 2010, 10:04 GMT)

Everyone seems to forget that he was extremely good last summer.

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