Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 3rd day January 5, 2014

Clarke rates Johnson among greats

Mitchell Johnson, the Player of the Series, has joined the ranks of Australia's greatest bowlers by terrifying England's batsmen in a way not seen for many a year, his captain Michael Clarke has said. Summing up Johnson's series, in which he claimed 37 wickets at 13.97 while also clattering handy runs, Clarke declared the left-armer's displays as good as any by the likes of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie or Brett Lee, all former team-mates of the captain.

Not even required for the earlier five-Test bout in England, Johnson put his mark on the series as early as day two in Brisbane when he was the catalyst for the collapse of the visitors' first innings. He continued to intervene at pivotal times throughout, creating a sense of anticipation every time he took the ball arguably unseen in Australia since Warne's most prolific days. Clarke paid warm tribute.

"Man of the Series, who would have thought, except me and probably Mitch?" Clarke said. "He's been an amazing bowler for a long time. He's bowled with a lot of aggression. To be able to bowl at that pace is one thing; to be able to do every single innings and back it up is an amazing achievement.

"Mitch has bowled a couple of spells through this series that are without doubt as good a spell as I've ever seen in my career. I've been lucky enough to play with Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee, Shane Warne ... Mitch's spells certainly match the greats I've seen, if not better.

"He's copped a lot of criticism through his career - he's been dropped - and no-one in the world can doubt Mitchell Johnson's character ever again. He's as tough a cricketer as I've played with. To have the attitude and hunger to say 'no I'm not giving up, I'm going to come back' is a credit to him."

Johnson's first spell of the series at the Gabba had been nervous, spraying numerous wides before he was fortified by the chance to bowl at Jonathan Trott, who he had troubled in ODIs in England earlier in the year. The wicket of Trott, who was to go home due to a stress-related illness after Brisbane, settled Johnson into a rhythm he did not lose all summer, often slinging down deliveries comfortably faster than 150kph. His treatment of England's tail was ruthless, another trend started that day in Brisbane.

"For me, I was quite nervous at the start for good reason, I guess, after what's happened in the past," Johnson said. "But they were good nerves and once I got past that and got into my rhythm and stuck to the plans and having the support of Michael and knowing I was going to bowl in short spells, I could be aggressive and go hard at their batters and it really did set the tone, that first Test match.

"That just stuck with us, especially seeing their tail and they way they were jumping around, they did look quite nervous with that bouncy fast Gabba wicket. Like Michael said, that was something we spoke about at Allan Border field. That definitely set the tone throughout this whole series."

Johnson's enjoyment of this summer has been enhanced by the development of a close relationship among all the bowlers, their group embracing tightly when the final wicket fell. "It was just a great feeling for the bowling unit to get through five Test matches, " Johnson said. "We've had the experience, guys like Peter Siddle have played 50 Test matches now and Ryan Harris has got through five Test matches bowling on one leg apparently. He's done exceptionally well, and Nathan Lyon, what he did today and in the last Test match, so I think as a bowling unit we really set the tone in that first Test and stuck with it.

"We just felt really good out there throughout this whole Test series. The support staff being able to get us through, I'm absolutely exhausted now, it's a huge relief to get through the Test series but we all feel confident that we can play back-to-back cricket, we've shown that. We can keep the accuracy up and keep working really well as a unit. We'd like to play a lot more cricket together I'm sure."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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