Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 5th day

Johnson comes full circle with Ashes win

Brydon Coverdale in Perth

December 18, 2013

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson leads the Australians off after taking 7 for 40, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 3rd day, December 7, 2013
Mitchell Johnson: An object of ridicule no more © AFP
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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

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Posted by   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.

Posted by cricketsubh 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 .

Posted by baseball_sucks 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

Posted by   on (December 19, 2013, 4:21 GMT)

great to see he has found his mojo!!

Posted by JimmyDee 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.

Posted by LeftArmOverTheWicket 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 :)

Posted by   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.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 17:37 GMT)

It's all due to Mitch's mustache.

Posted by Beertjie 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!

Posted by xtrafalgarx 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.

Posted by Noughtt40 on (December 18, 2013, 12:49 GMT)

Always came across as a down to earth bloke, especially for an Aussie. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes time away from the game has certainly helped him regain the composure to be part of the pack again and lead from the front. Credit has to go to Lehman as well for placing that trust in him and giving him the confidence to do bowl like he has exhibited this series. May he go from strength to strength.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 12:37 GMT)

this is one of the greatest resurgence of a detetched fast bowler in the history of the game. Mitch has given new life for fast bowling, the art that was dying

Posted by rajuramki on (December 18, 2013, 12:32 GMT)

MJ was always a very good bowler who use to bowl some great deliveries and many wayward deliveries . He was focusing more on pace than control , until this series . I do not know whether his having a family has brought about this maturity . MJ has been remarkable during the first three tests and I am sure he would want to scalp more batsmen in the remaining two tests . On the whole, MJ's return to Australian cricket has come as a bonus and Clarke would now start thinking about a whitewash.

Posted by Thegimp on (December 18, 2013, 12:26 GMT)

I'll be honest, I never wanted to see him in a baggy green again. Never wanted to see Warner in one either. In fact I wasn't a fan of a young Steve Waugh.........I'm start ing think I'm a rubbish judge of cricketer, but am enjoying being made to eat my words!!!

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (December 18, 2013, 12:19 GMT)

A great side needs not just good players but great players, players like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, who willed batsmen out. So many batsmen out there were afraid of them both that it gifted the team bonus wickets. The kinds of bowlers that could take wickets from nowhere, who could just apply that pressure on the most placid of pitches. That has been what has been missing from the Australian attack since those two retired, and, until Johnson this series, we hadn't had anyone else. It is not that other bowlers weren't good bowlers. Just look at Ryan Harris's record, or even Doug Bollinger, or James Pattinson, to name but 3. But Johnson is the first since Warne and McGrath to will batsmen out, the mark of a truly great bowler. He is a player that we can build around. The fire that Johnson has breathed this series has been inspirational. If we can get perhaps one more bowler to breathe fire in the same way, we are well on our way back to the top.

Posted by Mervo on (December 18, 2013, 11:56 GMT)

Paterson is over rated. If he ever takes 230+ Test wickets, like Johnson that will be a real miracle. Johnson has never enjoyed the respect of the Australian cricket following public because he was erratic at times, and we expected too much, especially wanting constant (in) swing. He is a fast bowler, swing is a bonus at times. His re-modelled action is superb and he deserves our respect as well. the younger ones need to prove they have the strength and the durability to take so many Test wickets.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 11:45 GMT)

@CamH..Indians r saying that because he actually did quite well for Mumbai Indians. remember if Aus pace bowler such as Stark, Pattison were health, MJ would not be in the team. he was quick and accurate in india for 1day series, IPL, CLT. i believe even Tendulkar on his post retirmen made a point that it would b Mitch Johnson to watch out for as far as england were concerned. master knows something about cricket and players he played with. MJ is an excellen all round player. he can bat,excellent athletic fielder and a genuine quick bowler. realy happy to see him bk in Aus Team

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 18, 2013, 11:23 GMT)

Sorry folks my last post is all messed up. Trying to do ten things at once. What I meant to say is Lillee sorted him out.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 11:11 GMT)

@Rick Forester, I am completely with you. Barmy Army really sunk to the lowest level with the way they targeted Johnson. If it was fun banter, then they should have stopped when Johnson agreed that those comments were getting into his mind. I do not know how "respectable" that was only Cook can tell.

I, for one really wanted to see this kind of turn around. Before the Ashes, I saw an interview from a Barmy Army fan and he said that they had more songs written targeting him. I really wanted him to do more worse damage than this. Now he can add Stuart Broad to his tally of conquered batters. Keep it up Johnson.

Posted by CamH on (December 18, 2013, 10:59 GMT)

The reality is that MJ is a bit unlucky not to have played more tests than he has this year. Despite the narrative that some Indian posters are pushing that he somehow rediscovered his ability to bowl in the IPL and Indian ODI series he has been bowling very well in test cricket since he returned from his toe injury in late 2012. He bowled extremely well in a losing cause against a very good South African line up in Perth last year before monstering the Sri Lankans where he both took wickets and broke bones of world class batsmen. He only got one test for 19 overs on the Indian tour and then didn't get picked for England. I am sure this was more down to history than exposed form and I imagine he was the last player cut from the squad.

Posted by stormy16 on (December 18, 2013, 10:43 GMT)

I think most of Aus had given up on Mitch and infact its amazing he was even part of the Ashes squad in Eng a few months ago. I have been amazed at the guys who have got ahead of Mitch but that as they is history and I think Mitch didnt do himself justice with poor performance. This guy as his best is hard to match and he has a test century against a quality attack in SA and even in this series he made valuable contributions with the bat in both the Gabba and Adelaide. I still havent seen much swing from Mitch specially that Akram like in-swing to the right hander which he did have in the past (just ask the Saffers). The only question that remains of Mitch is will this be a new begining or yet another once off.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 10:41 GMT)

that was thumping by the Aussies to the Englishman the English team needs to be sent off in black bags

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 18, 2013, 9:47 GMT)

Johnson went outside the official structure and consulted the master himself, D.K. Lillee. The first thing Lillee told him to do was grow a decent mo and come back when he looked like a real 1970's cricketer. After he'd done that he got to work and this is the result. Billy McDermott might have had a suggestion or two as well, but from everything I've heard it's down to Dennis and Mitch himself of course. Dennis told him what to do but only MJ could actually do it. .. Lillee is a national treasure in my opinion and we should appreciate him more. He's still got a lot to offer it seems.

Several weeks later when Mitch was packing a decent amount of lip hair he returned to yoda. Lillee was pleased and set to work. Months in the gym strengthening Mitch's undercarriage so that he ran smoothly and had a solid platform to help him line his target up was the prescription. .

Posted by Naren on (December 18, 2013, 9:27 GMT)

Mitch was a Match Winner period. I was sad when he was dropped from the test side. He came back emphatically and was a major difference between the two sides.

Posted by Dangertroy on (December 18, 2013, 9:19 GMT)

Congratulations Mitchell Johnson. As someone who was relieved when injury forced you out of the team, I'm glad that you've managed to come back and prove me wrong. I still maintain that Johnson needed to be dropped at the time. I think part of the problem was being thrust into role of leader of the attack. Johnson is a great strike bowler and a role player, but he didn't need the responsibility of being the lead bowler. Unfortunately Brett Lee's early retirement meant that Johnson became the leader by default before he was really ready.

@Rick Forster - I don't think the barmy army 'sink' to a level... They are just a passionate group of supporters. I wish we Aussies had an equivalent when we toured England, but from what I've seen its generally a bunch of middle aged men drinking in the stands and looking glum when we are doing poorly.

Posted by valvolux on (December 18, 2013, 8:35 GMT)

Johnson bowled well, but if pattinson was fit I would've expected the same result. He isn't as quick, but he's at you ball after ball with good accuracy, Fact is england couldn't get to 400 in england when johnson wasn't playing. They were never a chance in australia, no matter who was available out of harris, siddle, pattinson, starc, johnson or bird. They are all seriously good bowlers in Australian conditions. Starc and pattinson are also handy lower order batsmen like Johnson. But good on you mitchie....I was one of the haters, so happy he has buried his ashes demons. South Africa also have bad memories of Mitch, and they are the next scalp off the ranks. Should've beaten them last time in SA, with this sort of form it should be a great series.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 8:20 GMT)

you keep on suppressing/taunting/denigrating someone, to a point where either s/he break down completely or just is fed up and start to give it back. Mitch, looked like, was just fed up and started to give it back. Back he did, my gosh...

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 8:12 GMT)

It was quite amazing....Johnson to Anderson...and Its Australia..Regained the Ashes....What a feeling....Australia was dead and buried and they need someone special who come upfront and do the miracle. It was Johnson. Cracked Pitch almost 5 inches cracks and Johnson Utilized them nicely. What a Turnaround. The way he started bowling @ The Gabba, got to know that he gonna be the key player for Aussies if they win. 21 odd wickets in 3 test Matches which show that he alone bowled out English team twice. Good Luck Mitch you are the among the best Test bowlers now. Well Done..Cheers....

Posted by tickcric on (December 18, 2013, 8:12 GMT)

Before the series none other than Tendulkar earmarked him for the Ashes. Remember then someone from the England camp, probably the pace bowling coach said, bowling in one-day match in India is different from test cricket, how you have do better than bowl 2 or 3 short spells in a test match, etc... Now I think they will feel they were slightly complacent about Johnson, failed to take note of his progress through IPL, ODI in England and then in India. England have surrendered to Australia's overall aggressive gameplay and especially Johnson's.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 7:52 GMT)

Not just the subject of taunts from previous series but this one also. In Adelaide the "He bowls it to the left, he bowls it to the right. was sung loudly for three verses. Then of course he knocked Alistair Cook's castle over in emphatic fashion. The song was not heard at all on day 3...wonder why? You could hear the Barmy Army singing the "Johnson Family" song to the tune of the Addams Family tune in Perth. It actually gives even more credit to Mitch that even though the Barmy Army targeted him and pride themselves on singing derogatory songs about opposition players while also singing songs encouraging their own players England still lost by massive margins. Their best efforts to put of the opposition made no difference and England is the only team who have a group of supporters who sink to this level. Says a lot about the Barmy Army. Hope you're enjoying your holiday downunder.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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