Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day December 19, 2010

Ponting hails Johnson's 'all-time great' spell

Mitchell Johnson has spied the doubts in the eyes of the England batsmen after regaining his powers as one of the game's most potent fast bowlers. Johnson responded from his dropping in Adelaide with nine wickets in the third Test, including a game-turning effort on the second day which Ricky Ponting called "one of the all-time great Ashes spells".

His inswingers to the right-handers at 140kph make him a brutal weapon and he was a constant threat to England's batsmen during the 267-run victory. "I saw a bit of doubt in their minds throughout the second innings and when that ball is swinging around it puts a lot of doubt in people's minds," Johnson said. "But there are still two Tests to go and I've got to take it one at a time, keep trying to improve as a cricketer."

Johnson spent two weeks rebuilding his action in the nets with Troy Cooley, the bowling coach, before the contest and Ponting was hugely satisfied with the results. England were 0 for 78 in the first innings before crashing to 187 after Johnson's stunning burst of 4 for 7 in the opening session of the second day.

"The ball was swinging and Mitch's spell was probably one of the all-time great Ashes spells," Ponting said. "Him coming into the game under a bit of pressure as well, it was an amazing achievement and set up this victory and the series for us.

"The spell has transformed him and transformed how they think about him in the English dressing room. Some of the deliveries he bowled will have them seriously thinking about how they play him. I heard rumours coming into the game that they had Mitch's type of bowling worked out - I am not sure they think that now. You don't end up with the record he has by fluke, you have to have a lot of skill and commitment."

After taking 6 for 38 in the first innings, Johnson backed up with 3 for 44 in the second as he and Ryan Harris knocked England over for 123. Harris matched his team-mate's haul of nine wickets, finishing with a career-best 6 for 47.

Harris' collection included four of the five victims on the final morning, with the crucial breakthroughs being the lbw of Ian Bell and the edge of Matt Prior. He has played only four Tests but already has 20 wickets and has quickly become a key member of the developing attack.

"He's not put a foot wrong and is at home in the international game," Ponting said. "It was great to see him get that reward. He has toiled away all week and to see him contribute the way he has is great for him and the team."

Harris' only worry is the state of his right knee, which was operated on a couple of times during the off-season. The pain will stay with him for the rest of his career, but it is not going to stop him from taking part in the fourth Test on Boxing Day.

"He's just taken six-for in a Test match so he's fine," Ponting said. "He's got a couple of extra days off now so that will help."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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