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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 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...

  • Graham 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.

  • KISH 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.

  • Richard 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?

  • Michael Ponnudurai 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.

  • Richard 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.

  • 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.

  • creebo 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..

  • geoff 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.

  • Roelof 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..