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England in Australia 2010-11

Johnson happy to be back in Perth

Andrew McGlashan in Perth

February 4, 2011

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Mitchell Johnson compiled an aggressive fifty batting at No. 4, Australia v England, 6th ODI, Sydney, February 2, 2011
Mitchell Johnson's batting was more fluent than his bowling at the SCG © Getty Images
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It's been a difficult summer for Mitchell Johnson but he is back on a happy hunting ground for the last home game ahead of the World Cup. Perth was the scene of his one match-winning bowling spell of the season, where he took six wickets in the first innings of the third Test and nine overall, to set up Australia's 267-run series-levelling victory.

That, though, came to look ever more anomalous as he took 2 for 134 at the MCG and claimed 4 for 168 at the SCG as England retained the Ashes then won the series with innings victories. Since then, Johnson has had a stop-start one-day campaign hindered by illness which forced him to miss three matches and in Sydney he took 1 for 43 from six overs while overall has conceded 5.76 per over.

However, at the SCG Johnson also showed the other valuable skill he can bring to Australia's one-day team after he was promoted to No. 4 at the behest of captain Michael Clarke and responded with 57 off 59 balls to help them chase down a record 334. Johnson was initially pushed up the order to clear the boundary but, although he struck two sixes, he showed the ability to build a proper innings.

"The plan worked. Michael and Cameron [White] talked about it that night to keep the momentum going and get after Yardy," Johnson said. "I couldn't quite get after him as he bowled pretty well but I stayed out there and built a good partnership with Callum Ferguson then a little bit of a stand with Michael to get him going. I really enjoyed batting at No. 4 and hopefully I get more opportunities."

After the match Clarke said Johnson's ability to attack the spinners could make his batting a valuable asset during the World Cup. Although Australia expect to have Ricky Ponting back in the top order and hope that Michael Hussey recovers from his hamstring injury to play a part Johnson is ready for a top-order role.

"Michael and Ricky have spoken to me in the past about it, there have been games where I have been padded up in the past and looked to take on that roll," he said. "I probably don't look at it as a pinch-hitting role, but just go out there and be my aggressive self."

However, Johnson won't be able to survive in the team on the back of runs alone - his job is to take wickets as part of a probable four-pronged pace attack on the subcontinent. He has always brought a wildcard element to the line-up, but with Shaun Tait always likely to prove expensive Johnson also needs to control the run rate for his captain.

Despite his high economy in this series Johnson thinks he has enough time to sharpen his game before Australia's opening World Cup match against Zimbabwe on February 21. "I got the ball to swing back which got [Matt] Prior out which is a pretty good sign for me," he said. "I've worked hard with Troy [Cooley], I was probably five or six days behind with my bowling because of being ill so leading into the World Cup if I play this game and a couple more before it starts I think I'll be right."

Johnson will be a major name in Australia's Perth line-up, but overall it will be a much different team than is likely to face Zimbabwe in little more than two weeks after Clarke and Shane Watson were left in Sydney to rest, while Steve Smith picked up a hip injury. Smith joins Hussey, Ponting, Xavier Doherty and Nathan Hauritz on the current injury list at the end of a long home season.

England, meanwhile, have been left with a second-string bowling attack but Johnson believes Australia's problems have allowed them to show the strength and depth available. "There are bound to be injuries along the way, they've had a few disappointing injuries and so have we," he said. "It's not disconcerting, there are guys coming in that have played one-day cricket for Australia and done well for their states. We've got a lot of talent and a lot of back-up."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Meety on (February 7, 2011, 7:21 GMT)

@brisCricFan -agree on that! If a players standing in the game (greatness?) is guaged in the now, you'd have to say Alistair Cook is the greatest batsmen in the world. If you didn't factor in career stats, you'd go onto say Cook is the greatest batsmen ever. The truth he isn't either of those things - he wasn't bloody brilliant this summer & may evolve to become one of the all time greats or this may have been a form bubble, time will tell.

Posted by brisCricFan on (February 7, 2011, 3:00 GMT)

I think we can all agree that he is not bowling to his potential... does that make him overrated? I don't think so as he is not rated that highly on the rankings at the moment (6) ... the world acknowledges that he is suffering a bad run of form and truth be told his No. 6 is largely due to some mercurial performances like the WACA. If I was picking a pace bowling attack at the moment would I choose him? Probably... if I had to choose an International side would I pick Steyn first? Anderson second? yep... sure would, they are bowling as well now as they ever have... ... but then from Morkel, Z Khan or MJ ... Mitch would get the nod for his ability to bring the unknown to the match ... I don't think he is overrated... just not No. 1 in the world anymore and people tend to forget that and keep trying to talk about him as though he is... ... that is not fair on him and makes conversations like this rather pointless.

Posted by Meety on (February 6, 2011, 20:02 GMT)

@5wombats - LOL. WIthout career stats as some kind of marker, nothing is relevant. After the Ashes you would then be able to say that Cook is the GREATEST batsmen all time as he averaged 160+. Nobody is saying Cook is the greatest ever - he almost got dropped before this tour (that has been commonly reported), yet he produces a summer odf excellance rarely rivalled. Is that inconsistancy? As MJs stats are not bloated by rampages against Bangladesh & Zimbabwe, they are a valid marker of where he is in the ranks of bowlers of the modern age. Most good test bowlers have strike rates & averages higher than him not many have economy rates (much) lower than him. Agreed that there comes a point where selectors have to cut their losses with him, but that time is not yet here. I'd love for more consistancy from him, but WHO is overrating him? The most overrated player in the world? You can't be serious - look at Ashraful or even Bell from your lot? Defend all you like but I'm on higher ground!!

Posted by 5wombats on (February 6, 2011, 11:35 GMT)

@Meety; There seems to be a level of understanding that has gone missing here; First - look @ MJ's record since the beginning of the 2009 Ashes series.... the point is so obvious that there is no need to refer to it as "back up". It's common knowledge. Call it whinging or call it common knowledge; Johnson is hopelessly inconsistent. Period. Further evidence - dropped after the Gabba. I've raised the issue of overuse of the "if" word on here before. Test cricket is interesting because of the possibilities - the "ifs". But you can't use the "if" word in analysis - because it's inappropriate. Look - some players start great, that doesn't make them great for ever. Johnson started great, but that's history. You can't keep playing a guy because of what he did 3 summers ago. Like @Something_Witty says - MJ needs to fix up his game. "Drivelling thought bubble" - nice. No mate - knowing something about cricket helps and I'll defend my opinion for as long as you've got.

Posted by Meety on (February 6, 2011, 10:09 GMT)

@Stranded_Immigrant - point of order mate. Whilst I am no fan of Rickys Test captaincy - he is a very good ODI captain. I f he is back to form - Oz will be way better than they have been all summer. @5wombats - plenty of reasons to bother if you decide to raise his quality. IF & IF he gets it all together consistantly he WILL be better than all of your current mob - he is that good. Trouble is - he appears to be a WACA specialist. I beleive he get more consistancy - & then watch out! Like many of your blogs - you have a whinge yet you can't back up a majority of your points. What I read HatsforBats - as saying is that regardless of opinion MJ reached an achievement ahead of where some of the Legends of the game reached. This is comparative & in an era where bowling stats are worse than standards of the past - some consideration to MJs underlying skill must be held - otherwise you're nothing more than a drivelling thought bubble.

Posted by 5wombats on (February 6, 2011, 8:57 GMT)

@HatsforBats; it's clear that we do not agree what the word overrated means. Everyone can be brilliant for an hour or 2, or a session, or single test match - ask Bob Massie. Right at this moment MJ is overrated. 2 years ago he wasn't.

Posted by HatsforBats on (February 5, 2011, 22:04 GMT)

@ 5wombats: not confused, all those players I listed were brilliant...so a guy who early into his career is on par (results wise at least) shouldn't be considered overrated. I agree he's hot & cold and out of form, but great players have bad periods, but they don't suddenly become overrated. I can't really see him being dropped (permanently) though, he just adds too much to the team when he is on song (sadly not often enough lately).

Posted by 5wombats on (February 5, 2011, 16:39 GMT)

Well! This will be a day long remembered! @Witty and I agree about something! Look - when Johnson cleaned up the Saffers I thought; Oh boy - we're going cop it next. He was rightly regarded as lethal. But then it didn't really happen in 2009. I thought he'd be better in Aus in 2010/11, but he was so ordinary @ the gabba - he got dropped! Next thing he goes out and kills us @Perth. Jeez! It was only one game in 2009 and only one game in 2010/11. That isn't good enough. Botham is an interesting example to compare, but he always had a good bowling action and was a better batman technically than MJ, and as @Biggus says he was played for scare value especially towards the end. So - what to make of MJ? I think (no wind-ups) that a new broom will sweep Aus clean in the next 12 months (if it doesn't then Aus will deserve everything it cops). Agree @_Witty; MJ needs to sort it out but quick - or he'll be gone. Much will depend too on who Aus have coming through.

Posted by Something_Witty on (February 5, 2011, 12:25 GMT)

5wombats, you are absolutely correct about Johnson. At the moment he blows cold more often than hot. If he doesn't fix his game up soon and become much more consistent, he won't be in the side much longer. But there are many players who were just as mercurial as Johnson (if not more), and were/are regarded as greats of their time. Ian Botham, Freddy, Frank Tyson, Keith Miller and many others. The next year or two of Johnson's career will dictate how he is remembered. One thing to remember - Brett Lee's nadir as a bowler came between 2005 - early 07. He struggled horribly with his line, length and faced very similar problems to the ones confronting Mitch. Soon after, in late 07 through most of 08, he was one of the best and most consistent quicks in the world. It's too early to write MJ off as a lost cause, but he needs to fix his game up quickly.

Posted by 5wombats on (February 5, 2011, 11:13 GMT)

Johnson - on song - is outstanding. But most of the time he isn't, and these days that's most of the time. I think - at the beginning - he wasn't overrated. He was scary. But now? I can and do respect great players from any country or era - but this guy is not currently in that category. @HatsforBats; Someone is confused here; ALL of the players you list WERE NOT overated - they were brilliant brilliant players. Malcolm Marshall in particular was one of the greatest bowlers of all time. Ponting? was a great player up until about 2005. I don't regard him as overated now - I just don't regard as anything - he's gone. MJ cannot be mentioned in the same sentence with players like Hadlee or Holding, there's just no comparison. @Meety - career stats MJ v Eng bowlers? Why bother?

Posted by StarveTheLizard on (February 5, 2011, 10:01 GMT)

Hey Srivatsan, you're right. Clarke has proven to be a good captain. The trouble is Ricky is going to be back. All that Calrke has developed will just fall by the wayside. I believe that Australia will bomb with Ricky at the helm. Even if his finger has healed and his batting has improved, he is still the same captain he was before.

Posted by Meety on (February 5, 2011, 5:48 GMT)

@5wombats - LOL, nice attempt at a wind up, I don't think the Poms thought he was overrated in the 3rd Test! Still has better career stats than ALL your main pacers!

Posted by Biggus on (February 5, 2011, 3:57 GMT)

What do you do with a guy like MJ. Like the girl with the curls in the old rhyme, "When he is good he is very, very good, but when he is bad he is horrid". Whether he's over-rated really depends on what side of the bed he woke up in on any given day, and taking him into the WC is fraught with both good and bad possibilities. I don't think I've ever seen a more inconsistent international cricketer but if he didn't have an almost unparalleled ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake he'd have been history long ago. England should know how that feels, both Freddie and Beefy were a little like that, and were selected often on what they might, but probably wouldn't do. Advanced Hair Studios should put him on a retainer given his propensity to have us pulling out our hair in impotent frustration.

Posted by HatsforBats on (February 5, 2011, 3:55 GMT)

@ 5wombats: I don't see how any player who wins ICC player of the year can be considered overrated. He averages under 30 with the ball and over 20 with the bat after 40-odd tests. Sounds good to me. He took only 23 tests to reach 100 wickets (ahead of some other overrated guys called Marshall, Ambrose, Khan, Akram, Holding, Hadlee, Gillespie) and absolutely destroyed SA in SA (avg. 25 with the ball and 85 with the bat). Don't confuse overrated with out of for or inconsistent; or do you think Ponting is overrated as well?

Posted by 5wombats on (February 4, 2011, 22:57 GMT)

_Witty; the Grammar of your comment is odd but cannot be disputed. I agree - outside of England, or India or Pakistan Johnson is overrated (this must mean MJ is overrated in Aus, NZ, WI, Bang, Can, Afg). But inside these countries; England, India and Pakistan - he is entirely discounted as ineffectual and useless. So - either way - I agree with you. Nicely put, about time we agreed on something! @jonesy2 - now there is a true comedian.

Posted by Something_Witty on (February 4, 2011, 22:27 GMT)

Aha 5wombats, you're such a comedian! I take it that you mean "most overrated player in world cricket outside England"? Because then it might be accurate. Wait no. "Most overrated player outside England, India and Pakistan". There we go. Fixed.

Posted by 5wombats on (February 4, 2011, 17:48 GMT)

IMO MJ is the most overrated player in world cricket.

Posted by srivatsan on (February 4, 2011, 16:12 GMT)

while I won't say Australia will win the world cup. Looks like they have gelled as an unit better now.This team some one keeps raising to the occasion. Not to mention Clarke's fielding and bowling changes have been sharp. One thing I like about this team is there are 7 bowlers and 8 batsmen, pretty much they can cover any kind of wickets (spin, pace, medium).

Posted by   on (February 4, 2011, 11:57 GMT)

mitch has been ok and in some games his economy is really good. The bonus is he is a strike bowler, he can provide quick runs and sometimes dynamic batting and athletic in the field in particular at mid off and mid on and off his own bowling, which is key in 1day cricket

Posted by Cooper11 on (February 4, 2011, 11:44 GMT)

Go mitchell have have a good game on sunday and in the world cup!

Posted by jonesy2 on (February 4, 2011, 10:43 GMT)

yeah thats true tait can be very economical. mitch, along with watson, would have to be the biggest matchwinners and most valuable players in the world. something a side like england lack. what other strike bowler can come in at at big hitting number 4? what other attacking, dominating opener can come and bowl fast medium at a low eco rate and take big wickets?

Posted by Something_Witty on (February 4, 2011, 7:32 GMT)

I would just like to add that Tait is NOT "always likely to prove expensive". When Tait is on form, teams really can't even buy a run against him. Look at his economy rate in the World T20 last year, and in the three ODI's against England in England. When he's on form, he's as miserly as any bowler going around.

Posted by Something_Witty on (February 4, 2011, 7:29 GMT)

Mitch has actually bowled reasonably well this ODI series. He's nowhere near approaching his best form, and I think he needs some time off (more than just a week!!) to do more work on his action and get his wrist position right. But he hasn't really had the worst series with the ball. Good luck Mitch.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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