Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 5th day December 18, 2013

Johnson comes full circle with Ashes win


There have been times in Mitchell Johnson's past as an erratic Ashes bowler when his emotions might have got the better of him, but not like they did on the final day at the WACA. Johnson was on the verge of tears as he shook the hands of England's batsmen and umpires in the moments immediately following his Ashes-sealing wicket of James Anderson. It was a cathartic day for several Australians, none more so than Johnson.

The subject of Barmy Army taunts in previous Ashes campaigns, Johnson had always struggled to live up to expectations against England, remembered more for his wayward spells than his challenging ones. But at 32, now a husband and father with a greater perspective on life and cricket, Johnson entered this series in a different state of mind. He has been, without question, Australia's most influential player in the series.

It is not just the wickets, although his tally of 23 at 15.47 and a strike-rate of a wicket every 33 balls is remarkable. It has been his pace, accuracy and consistency that has troubled England over the first three Tests. If England were metaphorically on the back foot coming to Perth, it was largely because Johnson had literally forced them on to the back foot in the first two Tests. It was fitting that he took the wicket that confirmed the triumph.

It might easily have ended differently for Johnson, for one of the ugliest sights of the whole series came on the final day at the WACA when Johnson tried to do the team thing and cut off a boundary at deep square leg. His awkward slide was vividly reminiscent of Simon Jones' slide at the Gabba in 2002-03, which resulted in a ruptured cruciate ligament. Johnson's right knee jolted with such force in the WACA turf that viewers turned away from replays.

Johnson was fortunate that a dirty set of whites was the worst that resulted of it and after a few stretches he returned to the top of his mark to bowl the next over. After a change of trousers at the lunch break, Johnson was back on the field to wrap up Australia's victory.

"I think Mitch has known his role from the start of this series," Michael Clarke, the captain, said. "He's known what I've expected of him in this team at the moment with other bowlers around him. And credit to the other guys, because I think they've played a big part to allow Mitch to bowl the way he has bowled.

"But this game was a really good example. Mitch's pace probably wasn't as high as it was in the first two Test matches, but he executed with skill, and he's got natural variation. You saw there he got a wicket with the slower ball as well. He was able to bowl good areas. That's the class of Mitchell Johnson. Through his career he's been used in different situations. He's bowled long spells. He's opened the bowling. He's bowled first change. He can do all of that.

"It's just about what is best for the team. It's just another example of players putting the team first. He's been happy to bowl in short spells and maximise his pace, and then throughout this Test match at times he's had to bowl longer spells and be more consistent, and he's able to do that, which is very pleasing."

Johnson finished with match figures of 6 for 140 at the WACA to give him 23 for the series. England's two main strike bowlers, Anderson and Stuart Broad, haven't even taken that many between them. England's captain, Alastair Cook, said his men had always known that Johnson could provide a serious threat when in form, but they had been surprised by his control and lack of loose balls this time around.

"We've known that when Mitch gets it right, he's a very good bowler," Cook said. "Even when he was having that tough series in 2010-11, when he got it right here in Perth he [proved he] was a tough bowler to face. He bowls quickly and swings it, and that's a pretty good combination. 230-odd wickets suggests he's done it for a fair period of time. When he gets it right he's dangerous.

"It hasn't surprised that he's taken wickets, but I think it's surprised us the control he's had. He's managed to improve his control a lot since the last time we saw him."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    Really thrilling to see Mitch Johnson's triumphant return to Test Cricket! The ghosts of 2009 and 2010-11 have finally been laid to rest.

  • subhasish on December 19, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    yes aus win ashes but i still think aus team is not 100% settle becoz they got haddin and rogers both 36 they canot play for to long and also haris who is 34 now i think aus need to try some young players like silk,burns,madison.doolen for last 2 tests . i still think watson is not a test player he need to go i think huges need to open with warner .

  • Aiden on December 19, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    If a player like Johnson can turn frustrating performances into consistent contributions, there may just be some hope for Watson yet

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2013, 4:21 GMT

    great to see he has found his mojo!!

  • Simon on December 19, 2013, 3:54 GMT

    I, for one was one of his many detractors and critics, and could not believe his selection for this series. His good Vs. bad days were so extreme, he became the most frustrating cricketer we have probably ever had in our side! I am so happy to now see his refined action perfectly tinkered to include consistent accuracy at sustained speed! This, and with Warner getting scores in EVERY innings now, means that the Aussies are finally getting their heads where they should be.

  • Zahirul on December 19, 2013, 1:13 GMT

    I recon Mitch should keep the Mo as long as he is getting success. I recon he wont be able to get rid off this Mo till he retires. Good see some good old Mo in action. Cricket is so much better with this Mo that without it. Keep rattling those wickets and anything in front :)

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 17:41 GMT

    I am from India and i was always an Aussie supporter when it comes to the Ashes. Just the way Australia plays their game. Even if they are bad they tend to give it their all. Luckily for me I am a Mumbai Indian too so having Mitch in our side is an asset. I would not want him to play against India but being a lover of the game, nothing excites me more than watching a bowler with this much control and swing. The best part was even when he wasnt getting wickets, he was sticking with the basics. Not trying to hard. Stopping the flow of runs. He played for the team. This is typical Aussie, something I thought they were missing. Individually they were giving it their all, but as a team they seemed to be lacking somewhere. Johnson has shown the way....not just with his bowling. He played a good hand with the bat and gave it his all in the field. Just made the game richer. A word of appreciation for Steve Smith too...when he retires he will be big name.

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 17:37 GMT

    It's all due to Mitch's mustache.

  • Mashuq on December 18, 2013, 16:42 GMT

    Well MJ's extraordinary achievements have surprised a great many Aussie fans (myself included) as well as his foes. Long may it continue. If his proven physical durability can be allied to his new-found mental strength he'll be a fixture in the team going forward irrespective of his age. Long may this continue for this great athlete and sensitive man!

  • James on December 18, 2013, 13:10 GMT

    @CamH: He got his opportunity through India. He didn't get his form there ofcourse, but the IPL was the stage he needed, he wasn't getting a go anywhere but when he played in the IPL, guys like Ponting saw that he was playing well again and he got his opportunity through the IPL.

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