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

Clarke rates Johnson among greats

Daniel Brettig in Sydney

January 5, 2014

Comments: 101 | Text size: A | A
'No one can doubt Johnson again' - Clarke

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.

The destroyers: Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson, Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 3rd day, January 5, 2014
Mitchell Johnson on Australia's attack: "I think as a bowling unit we really set the tone in that first Test and stuck with it" © Getty Images

"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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Posted by   on (January 11, 2014, 11:45 GMT)

Before the 06-07 Ashes I sent in a comment to BBC I think warning England of MItchell Johnson's pace. This after they flunked out of the Champions Trophy in India when Johnson bowled a terrific spell and got Kevin Pietersen out. He's taken 6 years to prove me right.. But I saw this coming...

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 8, 2014, 9:46 GMT)

Biggest; You don't need quality spinners on selectively watered pitches, just need batsman that have practised with the unpredictable bounce. See Ashwin even got wickets against us and look what he can do on decent bouncing surfaces in Aus and Saf.

Posted by spinkingKK on (January 7, 2014, 12:08 GMT)

It was excellent stuff from Johnson. He is also a genuine all-rounder. Good in all the 3 areas in cricket. I hope he maintains his bowling consistency. With the world batting very weak, I think Johnson is going to terrorise a lot of teams. Australia still have to prove that they can win away from home. The biggest challenge of all is coming up next in South Africa. South Africa is a very good team with a strong batting line-up and quality fast bowling group. Their weakness will be in their spin bowling and their reserve fast bowling. They don't have a factory of fast bowlers like Australia do. But, their top 4 fast bowlers can be easily rated above Australia's. The competition is going to be a lot better than Ashes and I am looking forward to it. My guess is, South Africa will just win by a narrow margin.

Posted by Biggus on (January 7, 2014, 7:22 GMT)

@Samdanh:- So what quality spin are the Saffers going to decimate us with? Tahir? Petersen? The ghost of Hugh Tayfield?

Posted by Samdanh on (January 7, 2014, 7:08 GMT)

To make sure that this is not a one off achievement, some or all of the following needs to be done by Aus think tank: Australia batting needs to be more strong in performance in overseas tours. SA can be expected to lay out dry pitches to negate the Aus pace attack and crush the Aus batting which cannot play quality spin (except perhaps Clarke and Smith to some extent) Australia needs to rest not just Siddle and Harris but also Johnson from ODIs. There are plenty of fast bowlers who could be roped in to play the ODIs with England. Also, for overseas tours it is important they take one more spinner to be used when pitches are doctored. Further a back up quality spinner should always be with the team to be able to play if Lyon gets injured or a second spinner is required. It is very key for Aus to use some foresight in squad composition for and in the future.

Posted by Biggus on (January 7, 2014, 6:44 GMT)

@rjansen:- Harris has a career strike rate of 46, not too shabby, and an average per wicket of under 22. I don't think any sensible Aussie thinks the SA tour will be easy, but conversely any Saffer who thinks wiping the floor with us in the coming tour is going to be easy needs to seek psychiatric help. I expect SA to win, but you just can never tell for sure. Most likely the series will be decided by one of our top order collapses, not by the failure of our bowlers to perform. We know you guys are a well deserved No.1 in the rankings, but there's nothing wrong with aspiring to beat them.

Posted by Pacelikefire_Samrat on (January 7, 2014, 5:52 GMT)

This ashes series will forever be remembered as Mitch's series,just like the 1981 ashes is still remembered as Botham's.What a mind boggling performance! He may bowl to the left,he may bowl to the right, but when he gets it right,the whole world sees your plight.

Posted by creebo777 on (January 6, 2014, 16:26 GMT)

aussies wants a 5 test series? Last time i check u guys couldnt make it pass two test matches against us..all those blows, back to back double tons,back to back tons,400 runs in a day still u ausies couldnt beat us..

Posted by Henry_Crun on (January 6, 2014, 16:09 GMT)

@sicho - I'm not denying that your batsmen are very, very good, merely stating that Amla and Duminy are out of form. Your most consistent batsman behind De Villiers is De Kok, and the chances are that he won't be selected. You thoroughly deserve your current No. 1 ranking, but Kallis' retirement could not have come at a worse time for you. If SA are vulnerable at any time it will be in the next few months.

Posted by rjansen on (January 6, 2014, 15:43 GMT)

@Clavers If Johnson keeps his form he will be a handful indeed. I do think his action makes it very hard for him to stay consistent, it's a complicated motion where many things can throw it out of tune.

With regards to the strike rates, Steyn has a career strike rate of 42.0 for his 350 wickets, and Philander a career strike rate of 39.6 for his 105 wickets..

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 14:13 GMT)

Johnson had a good series but before this series started he was struggling. Anderson was rated the best fast bowler by his bowling coach before this series but misfired. Khan was quoted as saying that all he needed to to do to bowl against Graeme Smith was pitch up. That too did not materialize. Your teammates will always say you are the best ever. To compare Johnson now with McGrath is ridiculous. McGrath was freakishly consistently good. Johnson has to maintain this dominance over good opposition for a number of years before you can start to compare him with McGrath. If Johnson has a similar effect in SA against the likes of Amla, AB and Co. then he would have proven himself worthy of a comparison. Pitty it won't be a 5 test series. Seems everyone else plays 5 test series except SA. I wonder what strike rate Dale Steyn could archive in a 5 test series. Anyone wanna find out. The closest he will get to a 5 test series is 4 test series against England in 2014/15.

Posted by SICHO on (January 6, 2014, 12:19 GMT)

@Henry_Crun so you're going to compare batsmen who can only bat in Australia (Clarke included, how many double hundreds and triples does Clarke have outside Australia? None! AB's got 2 doubles, all away) with batsmen have been consistent and thrashing all bowling line-ups all over the world for something like 4 years now ? Get your act together. Funny how many Aussies have suddenly found their voices (some I've never seen them in 2013 here in cricinfo) just after one series win (at home that) with a bleak year in 2013. 4-0 in India, 3-0 in England and all of a sudden all is well. Now we have 'greats', 'best bowling attack' just after beating one team (at home that!). 5-0 is a good performance no doubt, but somehow many Aussies are starting to be OVERCONFIDENT and OVERHYPING their team a bit here (media included). South Africans are no push overs especially at home. Besides we've been beating everybody everywhere and clearly are the best Test team in world cricket. Even without Kallis SA is still the favourites, our batsmen are miles ahead the Australians, especially looking at their away record.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 10:10 GMT)

johnson tends to be an up and down bowler, who has had a career consisting of massive peaks and troughs. It looks like he has been at his peak for too long. Last time SA played johnson in Perth they made 550+ with alma, smith, ab scoring at almost a run a ball.

Posted by Henry_Crun on (January 6, 2014, 10:08 GMT)

@LancashireHotSpot - Sorry, mate, but I can see Clarke, Warner, and Rogers outbatting their SA counterparts. Smith will never win a Test in two sessions, Warner can and has. Amla is out of form; Rogers certainly isn't, and Clarke has been the best batsman on the planet for the last two years, irrespective of rankings. How many double and triple tons has De Villiers managed? Duminy is hopelessly out of form; I suspect that Steve Smith is just a poofteenth in front of him at this stage of their careers - if a poofteenth is the length of Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. As long as the SA selectors don't get intelligent and pick De Kok I suspect that Aus can just get over the line.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (January 6, 2014, 9:28 GMT)

@LancashireHotSpot "If Johnson is as 'destructive' as he was last time in South Africa he certainly won't be regarded as 'great' - he produced a woeful performance, 3 wickets taken in 4 innings at an average of 85! Your batsmen will have a great time if he brings that kind of form." He bowled with a broken foot and bowled badly. In a near exact replica to an earlier time (Jeff Thompson 0-100 in 19 overs V Pakistan with a broken foot), Johnson was dropped, had surgery, got fit and was keen prove himself by welcoming dear old England.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (January 6, 2014, 9:08 GMT)

Not just what a young man like you Michael Clarke has seen. In single series terms, although you would never have seen SF Barnes, Laker, Grimmett, Hogg or Imran, you may have as an 8 yo seen Terry Alderman in 1989 get 41 in 6 tests ? You did of course see Warne nail 40 in 2005. Between he and Mitch's 37, only stand SF Barnes (again), Bedser, Lillee (in 6 tests) and Maurice Tate. Below Mitch's 37 we start to see names like McGrath, Lohmann & Malcolm Marshall. Best return of any fast bowler in a single series since you were in nappies Clarkey ! Done also with some pretty good bowlers competing for the wickets. BTW outstanding utilisation of an outstanding attack. Thanks & Congratulations !

Posted by amfas on (January 6, 2014, 7:56 GMT)

AUS vs SA will be a true test of where teams stand!! While India lost the recent series they exposed some weakness's in the SA line up. Will the departure of Kallis combined with no decent spinner have any dramatic effect? Time will tell. That's what's so great about Test cricket. No team country dominates forever. The upcoming series will be a cracker........

Posted by LancashireHotSpot on (January 6, 2014, 7:50 GMT)

@Chris Salmon If Johnson is as 'destructive' as he was last time in South Africa he certainly won't be regarded as 'great' - he produced a woeful performance, 3 wickets taken in 4 innings at an average of 85! Your batsmen will have a great time if he brings that kind of form.

@vparisa Until Johnson can sustain the sort of form he's been in this series then he can't possibly be considered a great bowler. He's had one great series in the last 4 years! The reason the likes of McGrath, Warne and Botham are considered greats of the game is that they did it consistently over a long period of time. If Johnson can keep up his current form for the next year or two we can add him to the list but not before.

Posted by youfoundme on (January 6, 2014, 7:41 GMT)

He's a good bowler who deserves a lot of respect, he has proven himself time and time again. But, to put him (along with Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie) in the same class as Glenn McGrath is laughable, to say the least. McGrath's career was built on consistency, and his record shows. His mind and accuracy with the ball was unmatched, during a time when nearly every international team had strong bowling in the wings.

Johnson's performance in the series will go down in Ashes history as one of the best, he came into the side fresh and with a clear mind. They utilized him in way that had work before with Shaun Tait in ODI's, a few fiery overs and a pat on the back. Lee and Gillespie didn't have that fortune but still succeeded. So now it's up to him to make it count. Unfortunately, I can't help but see a repeat of past failures.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 7:39 GMT)

The beauty of sport - I predict the rankings will have little bearing on the upcoming AUS vs SA series. Two teams who play very similar games. 50/50 - anybody's series...

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 7:36 GMT)

Australia is going win the test series in SA! Sorry SA supporters but with their tails up SA batsmen will just not be able to cope with the sustained aggression of the Aussie pace attack. I'd like to see how the curators will prepare their pitches. It's one thing to bully the mediocre Indian bowling attack it's entirely another thing to face Mitch, Harris, Siddle and Co, along with a quality spinner like Lyon. And yes let's not forget that except for Bailey all Aussie batsmen have performed against the so-called best balance bowling attack in the world (at least that was what the Poms were considered before the start of the Ashes!

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 7:28 GMT)

MJ - one of the all time greats!? Come on Michael, you gotta be kidding me. Probably one of the most inconsistent performers in the game today. When he bowls like this he is awesome but when he gets it wrong he is awful. And make no mistake, he gets it wrong for LONG stretches of time. So he managed to string together a few really good games of late - that simply means he's in form. It does not suddenly undo all the inconsistent rubbish he has delivered and place him among the greats. I think emotion is getting the better of Michael Clarke here. For AUS's sake I hope MJ does well as AUS certainly need him at present but let's see how he's doing in 6-12 months time. Forget the Ashes - it is rapidly losing interest to those outside of those immediate teams. SA vs AUS is a far more exciting prospect - home or away.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 6:54 GMT)

Well done Mitch - I hope he isnt as destructive in South Africa as he was last time - he was on fire! We wont fold like England though. Bring them on, I cant wait, it should be a very even, cracking series. We've just lost arguably the greatest allrounder of all times, and we dont have any great spin bowlers around.I think our attack shades the aussies, and I think our batting shades theirs as well. But its all about confidence as well, and their tails are up. Cannot wait!

Posted by LancashireHotSpot on (January 6, 2014, 6:49 GMT)

@bren19 Whilst the cricketing public will accept that Australia are 'back' they have a long way to go. This series win has been excellent but let's be honest - England looked jaded and out of form from the word go (which is not meant to detract from the disciplined bowling performance from Australia), a hangover from the previous series. I think Australia will go OK in South Africa but it's difficult to see how they'll win a series away from home against a top order that isn't likely to wilt the way the English one did. Even if you were to make the rash claim that Johnson, Harris and Siddle are a more effective bowling unit than Steyn, Philander and Morkel can you really see Clarke, Rogers and Warner out-batting the likes of de Villiers, Amla and Smith?

Posted by vparisa on (January 6, 2014, 6:46 GMT)

Its surprising to see some Aussie fans still talking about Mitch as a one series wonder, Mitch deserves more respect from their country fans. What more does Mitch have to do to be considered great? Be consistent? He has been consistent for 5 tests and taken 37 wickets. The most Wickets Glenn Mcgrath took in an Ashes Series is 36 and Ian Botham is 34. Shane Warne/Dennis Lille/Jim Laker/Alderman etc are better but when you consider the Average, in a 5 match series or above, Mitch's Average stands third among bowlers who have taken 25 wickets or more. That is something. Mitch is a superstar in India and I think Aussie fans should give him more credit..

Posted by imtiazjaleel on (January 6, 2014, 6:29 GMT)

Mitch not only bowled fast but very intelligently, that's why he got so many wickets. he was lethal and unplayable most of the times. He was very well supported by other bowlers like Ryan, Siddle and Lyon. It will be very interesting series with SA because they have very good fast bowlers and Australia's batting still i feel is not that great.

Posted by bren19 on (January 6, 2014, 5:35 GMT)

So many people saying Australia is going to lose in SA in a whitewash. I suspect you are all the same people who said 8 weeks ago that Australia will lose 5-0 against England. You might not like it, but Australia is back.

Posted by Emancipator007 on (January 6, 2014, 4:40 GMT)

In 2007, neutral analyst Ian Chappell had "lobbied" for Sehwag (supposedly not in form) to be included for OZ Test tour arguing his attacking & decisive batsmanship wud help India to compete .Kumble (always a Viru backers anyaways) /Indian selectors immediately plumped for him;Viru's decisive fast-scoring helped in Perth win,&daddy 100 saved India in Adelaide (he was not played in 1st 2 Tests!). Similarly, discerning Indian-origin cricket connoisseurs had been giving early warning signals to OZ fans (who were otherwise derisive about Mitch)/selectors about his "cranked-up searing pace" being witnessed in IPL matches/net sessions & also his hustling of accomplished Indian bats Kohli/Rohit & browbeating Raina/Yuvi in recent ODI series. Ian Bishop speaks about leg-miles for bowlers in ODIs or domestic matches (instead of just nets sessions) which is imp for long Test spells. Mitch playing ODI series in India helped him a LOT for Ashes.

Posted by LancashireHotSpot on (January 6, 2014, 4:30 GMT)

I think Clarke's comment that Johnson's spells this series have been amongst the best he (and anybody else for that matter) has ever seen would be correct but to claim that he "has been an amazing bowler for a long time" is wide of the mark. Having been named the ICC Cricketer of the Year in 2009 he pretty much dropped off the cricket map with some awful performances and has only come back into some form within the last year or so. The real test will be away in South Africa where he's going to be up against the best batting lineup in world cricket in their own back yard. Over the course of his last two tours of South Africa he's averaged 55 which he'll need to better if he's going to be regarded as a 'great' bowler.

Personally I feel that Steyn, Philander and Morkel will be too much for Australia's fragile top order and having carried their team throughout the Ashes Australia's middle order will crumble and leave their bowlers with too much to do. Best of luck though.

Posted by Raineman on (January 6, 2014, 4:02 GMT)

"Posted by ofthedeepbluesea on (January 5, 2014, 19:55 GMT) @siddhartha87 - incorrect: Aus have not won the last 3 test series in South Africa - the last one was a draw..." @ofthedeepbluesea - No you are incorrect, the last 3 Test Series was in 2009 and Australia won 2-1. The draw you are referring to was only a 2 Test Series in 2011. @siddhartha87 was referring to the last "3-Test Series" not the last 3 Series of Tests.

Posted by DragonCricketer on (January 6, 2014, 3:11 GMT)

Yes. Too early to be compared as great. Boycott said on an Aussie ABC radio interview that Johnson wouldn't make a third west Indies greatest pace attack and when he rattled off the names of 10 or so WI pace men, I agree. However. his career isn't over yet. We will see.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 2:47 GMT)

It's so unfortunate that the word 'great' is thrown about so loosely these days in world cricket. Look, Mitchell Johnson has had one excellent series, but sorry, he still has miles to go before he can even be considered in that bracket. He's simply an otherwise erratic but very quick bowler who has finally out together an excellent series.

Posted by Rally_Windies on (January 6, 2014, 2:36 GMT)

It's the mustache,,, I think Mev Hughes , let Mitch in on the secrete ! ! !

Posted by MinusZero on (January 6, 2014, 0:44 GMT)

@Johnny_129 - Steyn and Philander's pace is not relevant. Pace doesn't get wickets, accuracy does. The main reason why Johnson was previously dropped - a lack of it. Would anyone say McGrath was a bad bowler? He wasn't far above medium pace. Accuracy and consistency is everything.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 6, 2014, 0:02 GMT)

TommytuckerSaffa; There was no comment from Clarke labelling him one of the greatest, he just said he bowled spells in this latest series as good as he has ever seen. Don't worry It seems your not alone in misjudging this article from the heading.

Posted by Humdingers on (January 5, 2014, 23:58 GMT)

It will be interesting to see what kind of pitches are dished out in SA. Aus can now cover swing and seam.

Posted by CanTHeeRava on (January 5, 2014, 23:27 GMT)

Man of the series to Mitch Johnson... who would have seen it coming? Well, may be Mitch, may be was Sachin Tendulkar who saw it coming. In his press-conference (post retirement) Tendulkar was asked to comment on the then upcoming Ashes series in Australia (by a BBC (?) journalist). Tendulkar said something to the effect of "if Johnson is bowling as well as he is, he will be the difference between the two sides". Tendulkar knew it. He had faced Johnson in the Mumbai nets...

Posted by Chris_P on (January 5, 2014, 23:26 GMT)

@ Biggus. Agree with you re: headline. He needs to do this over a number of series, to date he really has done it twice, albeit smashing Sth Africa & reducing England to the rabble they ended up. Thommo was frightening, not great but we can thank Alan Turner for that. That STILL grates me! For me, Rhino Harris's efforts the other end was equally important as he didn't let up the pressure. I still can't understand what happened to the English team to have lost so much form & all at once. Even now, their top 6 collectively average much higher than ours, so stats don't show the real current situation. But, I dips my lid to MJ, I was one of the doubters & happy to acknowledge his improved form. I really do like the quality of depth we have coming through.

Posted by bren19 on (January 5, 2014, 22:46 GMT)

I don't think you can all isolate it as one great series. This series win is off the back of the team growing, strengthening and coming together after the horrid Arthur years. I see no reason why the form should not continue in SA. I will grant you that SA will not tamely submit like England, but Aus is a team on the rise again (finally). It should be a good series.

Posted by vik56in on (January 5, 2014, 22:43 GMT)

@Johnny_129 Iam surprised how you say that Steyn and Philander have been built up by the media and are nowhere near Johnson. Johnson is a wee bit faster than Steyn but classwise Steyn is ahead. Johnson has his genius moments sometimes like in the Ashes but Steyn is a genius right throughout his career.You must remember that Dale Steyn is the only fast bowler maintaining an avg of less than 25 in the modern era.He is the second fastest bowler in cricket history to take 350 wickets .Steyn has bowled out India in their own dead backyard.What is Johnson's pedigree compared to Steyn .

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 22:37 GMT)

@SNIFFLEATHER - Almost 500 wickets in international cricket is pretty great, I reckon.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 22:32 GMT)

Warner and Rogers will be on for several 200 opening partnerships against SA. Mitch is gonna wreck their batting. 2-0

Posted by Beertjie on (January 5, 2014, 22:06 GMT)

@moBlue on (January 5, 2014, 11:15 GMT) I agree about the way to play the SA quicks, ie., showing "commendable discipline outside the off stump! that was the key - bravery (kohli hooked and pulled at will) and being strictly disciplined outside the off." My concern is that only Rogers and Clarke are likely to consistently demonstrate this. Matches fortunately are not played on paper, but if they were I'd have Pattinson for Lyon at Centurion and see what a 4 man attack Oz attack can do against a four man SA attack (Abbott for Peterson). SA will likely win there, but as I say, games are played on real pitches and the 2nd and 3rd tests will require spinners as well for sure!

Posted by vrn59 on (January 5, 2014, 21:28 GMT)

@Shripathi Kamath: as for your comment on Steyn never having a big series like this, you must note that Steyn, unlike Johnson, has NEVER played a 5-test series, and rarely plays even 4-test series... his stats in 2 and 3-test series are comparable to the best... it is not his fault he has never picked up 37 wickets in a series, it is simply because of scheduling... although Johnson is one of my favourites, Steyn's consistency, reliability, longevity, fitness and ability to threaten batsmen even on benign pitches proves that he is still the better one...

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 21:27 GMT)

Forget about all the posts and analyses...the best/fastest way to fix the English team is to schedule a test series with the West Indies immediately...and I am a West indian...

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 21:25 GMT)

great job MJ. you are extremely impressive in last 3 months. Great come back and i hope you become a legend bowler by bowling like that in future.

I hope aussie players don't get injured and we see great series against SA who are number 1 and roaring to reach more highlights.

I don't think australia can beat SA in SA this time around but it will be an awesome series to watch.

Posted by Mervo on (January 5, 2014, 21:09 GMT)

Johnson is now close to being our fourth greatest bowler ever with 242 Test wickets at 28.00. He has surpassed some great names, Lindwall, Hughes, Thompson, and soon Benaud. It is about time we gave him some respect instead of bagging him. His re-modelled action over the last two years has meant that his raw, left-handed pace is now accurate, a fact the selectors were slow to realise. Steyn is one of the all time greats and to even be compared to him is a privilege.

Posted by ofthedeepbluesea on (January 5, 2014, 19:55 GMT)

@siddhartha87 - incorrect: Aus have not won the last 3 test series in South Africa - the last one was a draw...

Posted by SNIFFLEATHER on (January 5, 2014, 18:11 GMT)

A superb performance in the series undoubtedly - but far too early to ordain Johnson as a "great". One swallow does not a summer make.

Posted by RuhulChowdhury on (January 5, 2014, 17:42 GMT)

I guess its natural for people to compare one player with another and one team with other in any sports. Johnson has been outstanding throughout the Ashes series and we all should appreciate his phenomenal performances rather than comparing him with Dale Steyn or arguing whether he is better than Philander and Morne Morkel etc. Truth is all the Aussie bowlers did well and to whitewash any team in a 5 test series is a huge achievement. We can compare Johson with Steyn or Harris with Morkel when Aussies play Saffers later on. For now appreciate the outstanding effort of the Aussies and lets hope that England bounce back and realize that they are not a great team they thought they are after they have drubbed lackluster Aussies for past few years and have to raise their standard up to be competitive.

Posted by avmd on (January 5, 2014, 17:21 GMT)

He didn't perform well in just one test, Mitch bowled superbly throughout the five tests and kept the aggression and energy level at peak throughout. At least during this series he was as good as any all time great fast bowler. Lets hope he continue his form for few more years. On current form, he is the best fast bower around, I would pick him ahead of Styne , at the moment.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 16:46 GMT)

"Before this series, Johnson was averaging MORE than 30.00. One great series doesn't make one a great bowler. Let's wait till he faces SA next month. Dale Steyn is leagues ahead of him and Anderson."

Yeah, but Steyn hasn't had a series like this one ever. Clarke is not arguing that Johnson is a greater bowler than Steyn. He is not. He is stating that the bowling in this series, especially the several spells which changed the match in an hour or two are worthy enough to be mentioned as being in the same class as the ones McGrath, Warne etc, bowled.

Oh, this Mitchell Johnson would walk into ANY all India XI teams as the first choice pacer. Of any era.

Posted by Trapper439 on (January 5, 2014, 16:09 GMT)

Nobody is claiming that Johnson is better than Steyn. But a guy getting 37 wickets in a five Test series at an average of less than 14 isn't bad, no matter how you look at it. Credit where credit is due.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 15:35 GMT)

A confident Aussie is 2 things: 1. dangerous, and 2. prone to shooting his mouth off and I'm not talking about their players (who I find to be a lot more humble under Michael Clarke than his recent predecessors) but more about the team's supporters.

Putting all the trash talk aside, I think that the series against SA is not going to be about the bowling units but rather the batting units. Most commentators have it right in saying SA have the edge there. SA might be without Kallis, but one man does not make a team. SA have coped without him when he has suffered injuries before.

Well done to the Aussies on an emphatic series win against Eng. It was brutal at times. SA will have to be at their best and start the series off in February a lot better than they did against Ind, but I have a feeling that this SA team wants to build a legacy just as much as this Aussie team does.

Posted by siddhartha87 on (January 5, 2014, 15:28 GMT)

Australia always does well in South Africa.They beat South africa there in last 3 test series.This time it will be no different. 2-0 to Australia against South Africa

Posted by Johnny_129 on (January 5, 2014, 15:15 GMT)

I have a feeling that Johnson will steal the limelight in SA, ahead to Steyn ad Philander. Johnson is bowling unbelievable right now. Steyn and Philander are good but they have been built up even more than what they are by the media and SA commentators - Pace wise, they are no where near Johnson! I would not be surprised if Greame Smith suffers another broken arm/ finger!!

Posted by HatsforBats on (January 5, 2014, 15:06 GMT)

@Protears, just to let you know, your post makes almost no sense. The best bit? Aus pitches have no lateral movement or swing. Are you implying our pace attack will somehow be less effective in SA? I'm sure or quicks will be licking their lipids at the prospect of a few seaming greentops...or fragile batsmen maybe not so much.

Posted by rphanikanth on (January 5, 2014, 15:03 GMT)

This is the biggest joke of the century. One series he is good and he is called a great!

Posted by Jeeves_ on (January 5, 2014, 14:54 GMT)

Right now the top 3 teams are South Africa, Australia and India. South Africa losing Kallis takes out their solidity. India are batting superbly, but not the same bowling strength unless on doctored home pitches. Mitch has always been a great talent, and good luck to him for being successful.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 14:52 GMT)

That series might turn out to be a true bowlers series where each team will hardly cross 200 odd runs. I am looking forward to this series anxiously.

Posted by jonesy2 on (January 5, 2014, 14:47 GMT)

no reason why he wont bring the same if not better on more helpful pitches against Sth Africa, that combined with the brilliant harris is better than the whole SA bowling attack. bring hughes in the bat at 3 move watto down to 6 I cant see sth Africa winning especially with no kallis and no replacement batsmen, theyre already light on with the likes of du plessis and duminy down the order and Petersen at the top. SA not having a spinner hopefully hurts them but I can bet the pitches will be seam friendly since they don't want to face lyon on a turning and bouncing wicket but that should backfire on them. will be a great series though cant wait

Posted by Amol_Ind_SA on (January 5, 2014, 14:39 GMT)

Before this series, Johnson was averaging MORE than 30.00. One great series doesn't make one a great bowler. Let's wait till he faces SA next month. Dale Steyn is leagues ahead of him and Anderson.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 14:08 GMT)

Steyn and Morkel are fast,very fast bowlers.Johnson however is express and thats a different dimension. The wickets in S.A tend to be sporty so late in the season and the other advantage Australia has is being battled hardened vs S.A who have hardly played tests in the last 12 months.Factor in Kallis's retirement and it's a very even series. As a Proteas fan i unfortunately think that the Aussies carry some excellent momentum and will win the series 2-1

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (January 5, 2014, 14:05 GMT)

I agree with Ozzie posters below like Barsney4444. From a Saffa perspective Harris is far more of a threat than Johnson and always has been for that matter. His line and length are immaculate, gets good movement off pitches and all at a good pace.

I am hopeful that the experience and class of SA's batting line up will have more backbone than the current English one.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 13:58 GMT)

@Protears. Was that the same game that Hodge scored 200? I like your reference, Did you mention that Andre Nell sorted Hodge later out with his hostile 129km balls? Ok, perhaps not. How about that notoriously fast pitch in Sydney? Do you recall Graeme Smith's finger, or just his captain's knock in the second innings where he lost his stumps to Johnson? Maybe mail him directly. Oh, that other series where you won and were completely outplayed in the two other matches. Gotcha. Who does Patingson play for? I know that James Pattinson will be available to play in the forthcoming series. Not a bad bowler at all, but if you compare stats to the maybe-one-day-barely-good Morkel he appears a galaxy better. Then again, you wouldn't want a 17 year-old bowling you out and scoring the winning runs again...on your soil. I suppose IF England were allowed to bat well, they would have. And the England batting line-up ON PAPER is a lot better than yours.

Posted by pitch_curator on (January 5, 2014, 13:42 GMT)

Harris is a better bowler than Johnson. Johnson is a confidence bowler who if attacked will be out of the game in 3 overs.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (January 5, 2014, 13:35 GMT)

S.A. batsmen will be much harder to get out than this pathetic England batting display. Also our top 6 is still fragile, we were regularly 5/100 which will lose a test against the Saffers. Courses for horses Hughes needs to open, Warner 3 with Watson 6.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (January 5, 2014, 13:31 GMT)

A 32 year old bowler in the twilight of his career with an average of 28 being lauded by the Australian captain as 'one of the greatest' . Tough Cricket times in Oz these days it seems.

We've all seen Johnson before, he has been around for many years. When he clicks, he is world class but unfortunately, in the past he didn't click that often. And all would agree that it was his inconsistency that stopped him from being a great. Will be interesting to see if he can maintain his form in SA and injuries. Going to be an absolute cracker of a series - hope everyone from both teams are fully fit.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 13:30 GMT)

While full credit to the Oz bowling unit, to be fair they were really not tested by England. With SA the story will be different. They will seldom be bowled out in 60 to 80 overs. The moment OZ bowlers are stretched to 110 overs and beyond particularly in the first innings, many like Harris will collapse. Even Johnson or Siddle can feel the heat and strain then. So it's not going to be as easy for the Aussies when they take on SA.. But then that will be the real test then...... Waiting to watch.

Posted by tokoloshe on (January 5, 2014, 13:24 GMT)

Come on Clarkey - good series for Mitch, but long way to go to even being mention alongside McGrath or Warne or even Lee. He has lots to prove. He has played five tests in a row and performed but hasnt been under preassure. He will feel that pressure in SA and then we can call him good....not quite great.

Posted by proteaLOVER on (January 5, 2014, 13:18 GMT)

can some1 PLZ PLZ tell me why the Ausies love reminding us abt them being a bowler short in the 2nd test against SA and rain saving SA but never mention Duminy getting injured on day 1 of the 1st test or steyn getting injured as well as kallis in the 2nd test when he was bowling extremly well

Posted by Micky.Panda on (January 5, 2014, 13:08 GMT)

I don't think it will be as easy for the Australian attack in SA. The SA attack may well look better than the Australian attack purely because the Aus batting is weak. I expect SA to win on the strength of their batting lineup, but hope I am wrong. Bailey was an experiment that failed. Watson should move out of No. 3 to Bailey's spot (if playing) and someone to come into No. 3. I am thinking that Rogers could be No. 3 if no one else can be found.

Posted by Tumi_tlhomz on (January 5, 2014, 13:03 GMT)

If some of you actually watched the sa vs india series you'll have seen for most of steyn's spells his average speed was 140-142 kph so for someone here to say he mostly bowls in the 130's,that is untrue. In fact in some of his spells he even upped the ante and bowled 145-147. Morkel on average bowls in the 140's and he gets good bounce off a length. Also the pitches that were played in the series were uncharacteristically slower which made it easier for the indians with the durban pitch being as dry and brown as I've seen in sa. Unlikely centurion on feb 12 will be that slow,bring on the aussies.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (January 5, 2014, 13:02 GMT)

@MoBlue: Yes, the young Indians batted very well, but our batting still needs work. I'm not sure if they have the same patience as what the Indians did, but they are always Improving. Smith is now learning how to respect bowlers and wait his time, Warner is still learning his game too. Rogers looks solid now, hopefully we can rely on him for a few years yet, Watto should be a no.6 and Clarke needs to do better away from home.

Posted by silentstand on (January 5, 2014, 12:58 GMT)

Heh after smashing the pathetic poems 5-0 I see some are getting over zealous if anyone thinks oz are just going smash S.A then your wrong.Its true we lost Kallis which is a huge loss but Ozzie batting is pathetic every test the have been about 100 for 5 and then saved by haddin you won't be so lucky in S.A.i also rate Harris as a bigger threat that Johnson in this next series.

Posted by Protears on (January 5, 2014, 12:51 GMT)

Mitchell Johnson was part of the Australian attack against South Africa at Perth, which saw Hashim Amla hit a hundred in a session, he was part of the Australian attack dismantled in India out done by Indian seamers and he was part of the Australian team in England also dismantled. In Australia they are not push overs as you would expect but the fact is Australia lost 8 matches last year with the vaunted Starc, Pattingson, Johnson. Ryan Harris is 35 and has a history of knee problems, if England batted well all the time and forced 140 over innings I doubt Harris would have played 5 tests and Lyon still goes at over 3 rpo in India they took him for 5-6 rpo and England scored at 8rpo off him yesterday. To be the best attack in the world you have to win everywhere.

Australia have a perfect attack for Australian pitches bereft of lateral movement and swing, tall fast flame throwers. The same that saw Jimmy Anderson in his domain run through the Australian batsmen.

Posted by nayonika on (January 5, 2014, 12:40 GMT)

Australia are becoming ruthless like in Steve Waugh days. They will be Number 1, after beating SA comprehensively and then run over other teams for the next couple of years. Beware, all other test playing teams!

Posted by swarzi on (January 5, 2014, 12:31 GMT)

Posted by Shaggy076, Thanks for rebuking me. I definitely did not read the whole article before I commented.I just stupidly responded based on the headline, which I realise is usually so phrased to seek readers. Yes, I think that Clarke is a very intelligent man, so I was wondering how come he could make such huge mistake! Not that Johnson didn't bowl beyond expectations throughout the series, but to compare any aspect of his bowling with Glen Mc Grath's flawless efficiency is already just STRETCHING it!

Posted by vik56in on (January 5, 2014, 12:23 GMT)

Johnson is a confidence bowler. England had allowed him to settle into his comfort zone by their batting coach Gooch's advocation of the long innings. Instead of being staid in their plans England should have attacked him at the start of the Ashes.

Posted by Short-Arm-Jab on (January 5, 2014, 12:17 GMT)

@Justin Gibb, It sounds like you're more than a little worried, after all, The mighty South Africans haven't had a series win against Australia in South Africa since well before the end of the Apartheid. Also last summer in Australia, the Aussies were all over the South Africans who were saved by the rain in the first test and clung on for a draw when the Australians were a bowler down on flat track in Adelaide only to briefly outplay the Aussies for the first time in the third test to win the series. I do also recall Australia hitting something like 482 runs in a single day against Steyn and Morkel at Adelaide. Anyway Johnson will more than likely smash the South Africans just like in 09', can't wait!

Posted by valleypf on (January 5, 2014, 12:11 GMT)

All those experts doubting Johnson can perform in South Africa should note: He's already been the Player Of The Series in SA once so what makes you think he can't do it again when he's never been in better form than he is now?

Posted by Sir_Ivor on (January 5, 2014, 12:02 GMT)

Australia have been very good. There is no doubt about that. Also they have done well in South Africa in the past. But I am not very sure, if just express pace unsettles the South Africans. Amla,Smith,DeVilliers and Du Plessis are excellent players of fast bowling and on their own wickets they could be difficult to bowl out twice as the Indians found out. Even if one agrees that Harris and Siddle with Johnson are much better than the Indian pacers, it is well possible that Steyn and Co will give the Australian batsmen some very anxious moments. Clarke has always done well in South Africa and should do likewise this time also. But about the others I am nor very sure. I say this because in each of the Ashes tests, they used to be 4 or 5 down for very little. When Haddin and Johnson would come to their rescue. My assessment is that it will be a close fought series but South Africa should win.I will not say by how much though.

Posted by inefekt on (January 5, 2014, 11:58 GMT)

Wow, nice way to use baited titles guys. Clarke said, very specifically, that a couple of his SPELLS in this Ashes series were as good as he had ever seen from past greats. He DID NOT state that he thought Johnson was an all time great.

Posted by Back-Foot-Cringe on (January 5, 2014, 11:57 GMT)

Echoes from history . . .

After the "bodyline" series, which Eng won comprehensively in Oz in 1932-33, skipper Douglas Jardine sent a gift to Larwood, his demon bowler who decimated Aussie bats & quieted Bradman.

It was an ashtray with the inscription: "To Harold, For the Ashes, From a grateful skipper."

Whether MJ smokes or not, Clarke might consider doing the same for his dog of war.

Mitchell Johnson: 37 wickets @ 13.97 @ 30.6 strike rate.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 5, 2014, 11:52 GMT)

Swarzi; Try and read the article rather than the sensationalised heading. He only said he bowled spells as good as he had ever seen which seems a fair comment.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 11:25 GMT)

@Biggus - true, 25 is the average you would expect in the pre-helmets era. But Johnson with 37 wickets at a tad under 14 and at a strike rate of 30.5. Wow... just check that out for 5 Test series of the past 100+ years ( )

I thik Johnson has truly arrived - all the psychological issues are ancient history. I think the Saffers will find these 3 quickies and Lyon a handful. We have had some good results in SA over the last 20 years, and we may surprise ourselves.

But we need the top 6 to bat better....

Posted by moBlue on (January 5, 2014, 11:15 GMT)

as an IND fan, let me assure my AUS friends that SA are totally beat-able in SA!!! yeah, they have 3 giants in steyn, philander and morkel, but 3 IND batters, all of whom are green and younger than 25 (pujara, kohli and rahane), played them comfortably because they showed commendable discipline outside the off stump! that was the key - bravery (kohli hooked and pulled at will) and being strictly disciplined outside the off, despite not really having experience facing this type of bowling on these kinds of bouncy tracks back home!

the oz batters, on the other hand, have faced these sorts of conditions back home. if they can show discipline, they ought to be able to bat pretty well against SA in SA!

the last point i want to make in this regard is crucial! SA batters, now that the formidable kallis has retired, are not all they are made out to be! they will be vulnerable against oz pacers *and* against lyon! for instance, a mediocre IND bundled SA out for 131 and 215 in 2011 in durban!!

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 11:13 GMT)

Bring on Australia with their big talk as the best bowling unit in the world. They get it together against a useless England side and all of sudden they are the best. Sa has sustained their skills over the last two years with Steyn and Philander ranked No 1 and 2 in the world. Granted Jonhson can be deadly but can he do that over 5 years like Steyn. It is the usual Australian trash talk bring it on Sa are becoming brilliant side and they will show their class in February when Australia tour.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (January 5, 2014, 11:11 GMT)

AidenFX, few quicks bowl every ball ath their fastest. Look at Steyn. He bowls most of his deliveries in the130s these days, with he odd very fast ball. Only Mitch's slower ball is 130s. His bouncer is terrifying because with that slinging action it skids off the pitch and leaps up at the batsmen. How many times did we see the English batsmen leaping and swaying and ducking - or just getting plain sconned?

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 11:10 GMT)

No one bowler in recent times has had such sustained domination of a series - every single Test Match and he definitely dented the psyche of the English team. However, before hailing Johnson as an all time great, let us, for a moment, take this series out of the equation and we have a good but not great bowler. SA will be the acid test for Johnson to get promoted from very good to all time great

Posted by valvolux on (January 5, 2014, 11:08 GMT)

The title is classic, misleading comment inducing tripe. He said his spells were amongst the greats, not johnson as a bowler. How good is it gonna be in south africa? We have a habit of playing better than them on their home turf and whilst their attack is probably better, our guys are on fire. They have worse nightmares about johnson than england ever had and now face him in the form of his life. They have a far better batting lineup than us, so once again we need guys to stick around with clarke. Should be a cracker, wouldnt be suprised though if the aussies destroy them.

Posted by swarzi on (January 5, 2014, 10:58 GMT)

I think that Captain Clarke is overwhelmed by Johnson's performance, and hence, makes an emotional statement in the heart of their victory celebrations. Why does he not wait until Johnson is tested in real test match conditions, on the bowlers grave yards in India; or Sri Lanka? Or why doesn't he wait to see what he does next tie round, that's in 2 years in the Ashes in England? I don't want to rubbish his statement, but it got very close to that!

Posted by fuji-one on (January 5, 2014, 10:36 GMT)

Who else thinks that this series has made AUS vs SA most awaited. I think there would be many other than me waiting for the tussle between Australia and South Africa

Posted by lesamourai on (January 5, 2014, 10:33 GMT)

Johnson was truly the Man of the Series. Haddin's contribution was enormous, and is justly acknowledged. However, the margins of victory were so large that Australia may have been able to win without his consistent heroics. And it is possible to win test matches without scoring many runs (e.g. Australia at the MCG), but it is not possible to win without taking 20 wickets. Of the 100 wickets required for five victories, Johnson took 37 by himself. In addition, the fact taht he was scaring the living bejeezus out of the English batsmen aided his colleagues with quite a few of their wickets at the other end. Add to that a brilliant run out, some spectacular catches, and the fact that he was at the wicket at the Gabba making 64 when Haddin made his innings saving 94, and there was only one MOTS. Well played Mitch!

Posted by DaisonGarvasis on (January 5, 2014, 10:22 GMT)

Everytime I woke up early to watch this Ashes series was to watch Johnson bowling. And he didnt disappoint. The best moment was Clarke showing the "sssssttttt" sign to the Barmy Army in 4th Test after Johnson taking coupla wickets in one over. Barmy Army had given it to Johnson in the past. Johnson repaid them with interest!

Posted by ashes_galore on (January 5, 2014, 10:22 GMT)

Wonder if Harris, Johnson and Siddle will be taken apart by the South Africans of Smith, Amla, De Villiers and Du Plessis. They are a hard to beat side at home. The wickets there swing and seam. Steyn, Philander and Morkel will be licking their lips on this vulnerable top order Haddin doesn't have a good record in SA and at 36 don't expect to rely on him to bail out the side all the time. Their last victory came coutesy of a 6 wicket haul from Pat Cummins (who?) who is injured. Looks like the likes of Pattinson, Starc, Cummins will all have to wait their turn.

Posted by disco_bob on (January 5, 2014, 10:19 GMT)

For Mitchell Johnson to bowl with such intensity, aggression and above all accuracy is one thing but to do it consistently from the very beginning of a 5 match series right through to its truncated finish, all the while with the continuous pressure of expectation that he himself had created, is something really special.

Hopefully our batters will give him their full support in the coming South Africa series in order that he has the chance to prove himself against the best team in world cricket on their own turf.

Posted by Biggus on (January 5, 2014, 10:17 GMT)

Can't agree atm with the headline I'm afraid, but then I don't rate Jeff Thomson as a great per se either. The more you throw that word around the more you devalue it. However the headline is deceptive since what Clarke is reported to have said is Johnson is amongst AUSTRALIA'S greatest, so how do I feel about that? I think I'll wait 'till he retires to make that call, but it's worth noting our previous bowling greats have averaged around 25 or less, the very reason I'll suspend my judgement.

Posted by chicko1983 on (January 5, 2014, 10:12 GMT)

I suggest the Sth Africans go and watch Mitchell Johnson's spell against the Sth Africans at the wanderers on YouTube, four wickets and sent Kallis and smith from the field injured in one session. Then compare it to the highlights from this series. He is bowling as well and as fast as he did then. Watch out next month!

Posted by AidanFX on (January 5, 2014, 10:11 GMT)

He didn't bowl to many over 150km/h - but he barely bowled anything under 140, excepting the occasional slower ball and I say a couple deliveries about 138km/h but almost everything above 140. It was sustained pace from spell to spell, match to match for an entire series; constantly around the 147 mark. What was also impressive was his bouncer was often as quick or quicker than his stop delivery (many 149-50). This is a often not the case because bowlers usually extract more friction out of the pitch by banging it into the pitch, so it slows a bit. But his rhythm has been so good that the ball has moved quickly off the pitch. I have not seen such a successful sustaining of the short delivery. He must be seriously fit. He bowled some lethal swinging deliveries pitch up to go with the short stuff. He also got some of those wickets he has done through his whole career of somehow drawing batsmen into the pitched up wide delivery.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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