England v Australia, 4th NatWest ODI, Cardiff September 13, 2013

Johnson wants to keep intimidating

19

Mitchell Johnson has rattled England's top order whenever rain has allowed during this one-day series, but he has admitted that regularly pushing the speedgun over 90mph has taken even him by surprise.

Johnson's new-ball spell in the rain-ruined third match at Edgbaston had Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott hopping around and it followed an eye-catching display in Manchester where Trott gloved a short delivery behind and another delivery zipped through almost decapitating wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.

Although he is trying not to get sucked into talk of a Test comeback in the return Ashes he hopes his performances with the white ball will leave England's batsmen "wary" of him as he continues his quest to intimidate.

"Consistently my pace is definitely up there," he said. "I think the bounce that I'm getting is probably the key. That's something I remember from when I first started playing cricket for Queensland, getting extra bounce brought me a lot of wickets. Being consistent with that pace, it was a bit of a surprise for me as it wasn't something I was actually working on, but because I'm strong and fit that's where the pace has come from. It was a surprise, but I'm happy with it for sure.

"I have that confidence and belief in my bowling," he added. "Whoever I'm up against I'm confident I can get them out and intimidate them, that's what I'll be doing here and in every game going forward. That's how I bowl and will continue to bowl. Hopefully they are wary of me. I just have to keep being aggressive and keep it simple, that's it."

At Edgbaston, Johnson beat Pietersen for pace to have him caught at square-leg pulling and gave Trott, who has battled against the short ball during the latter half of the season, a tough working over. Trott saved himself with a review when he was given lbw to a ball that pitched outside leg, then Australia used up their review on one that was just clipping the bails. To cap a tough innings, Trott was struck in the grille as he tried to pull.

"I bowled a couple of cross-seamers and it seemed to skid through nicely but when you can get those guys out with the short ball it can be very intimidating and the short ball is part of my armoury," Johnson said. "As a fast bowler, when I've been at my best being aggressive I bowl that armpit ball or to the throat of the batsman, and then I try to use the ball swinging, getting it up there for the lbws or bowleds or catches behind, I try to keep it as simple as I can."

Johnson remains a figure of fun for the English crowds but has learned to embrace his pantomime villain status which dates back to his nightmares in the 2009 Ashes when his game fell apart at Lord's. After firstly struggling to accept the vocals from the fans - which extended to the 2010-11 Ashes in Johnson's own backyard and finished in a first-ball duck at Sydney to chants of "he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right" - he now finds himself humming the tunes in his head.

"It's pretty catchy," he said with a grin. "I didn't like it when I first came over. I didn't expect it. I'd been in some pretty good form throughout 2009 and I didn't really expect to cop as much flak as I did. Now, it doesn't bother me. It's all part of the game, I know what to expect over here now. Wherever I am now in the world I know what to expect. I just take it on board and move on with it.

"I think I'm always going to cop it over here now. As soon as I bowl a wide I get it but it's all part of the game and I've learnt to live with it and enjoy it."

Having been through the rough times more than once, Johnson is also aware of how quickly fortunes can change having felt hard done by to not make the cut for the recent Ashes. Although the injuries to James Pattinson and, particularly, Mitchell Starc have opened up a clear route back into the Test team for Brisbane in November he knows that his impressive performances here will count for nothing if his form falls away over the next few months.

"I know my action is watched a lot at the moment, so as soon as something isn't quite right it gets picked up and could backfire on you," he said. "It was disappointing to find out I wasn't in the squad because I thought I'd been performing, coming back from the injury. Watching the first ball of an Ashes series was quite hard, but then I got over it and knew I had to keep working hard.

"I feel like I've been performing and now I have to perform at the right times. I want to play Test cricket, that's my No. 1. Hopefully I get the chance to play against England and win an Ashes series."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JustAnOpinion on September 13, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    Lets look at this guy's stats - 205 Test wickets @ 30.9 (in 51 tests, so almost exactly 4 per match) is really not bad in modern, batter-friendly conditions. His ODI figures are 19 wickets @ 24.9, with an economy of just 4.80 RPO and best figures of 6/31. That is world-class. His batting's handy, particularly in Tests (averaging 21.96 with one century), albeit more tail-ender than lower-order batsman or genuine all-rounder. Numbers don't tell the whole story, but they do show Johnson has a history of proving effective and at his best form he undeniably takes wickets.

    Unfortunately since the end of 2010 he has taken only 28 wickets in the 10 paltry Tests he's played, at a less sensational average of 40.39. He did hit a handy 92* against Sri Lanka at the MCG though - the Lankans' top score that match was 58! If his form looks good and English batters like Trott are struggling against him, I'd play him in Tests and see if he's turned a corner.

  • landl47 on September 13, 2013, 23:07 GMT

    The problem is you never know what you're going to get with Johnson. Two examples: in the 2010/11 Ashes he had a great match at Perth, took 9-82 in the game and bowled a wonderful spell of fast, late swing in the first innings. In the rest of the series he took 6-472, average 78. Fast forward to the 1st T20I on this tour. He started with an over giving up 17, then had a wicket maiden, then 1-7 and finished off giving up another 17. 2-41, including 2 wides and 2 no-balls. A perfect microcosm of his career- when he's good he's very, very good, but when he's bad he's horrid.

    It really all comes down to Harris' fitness. If Harris is fit, he's just as intimidating as Johnson (as he showed in the 4th test) and a lot more consistent bowler. If he's not fit, then with Starc already out Aus needs a strike bowler and maybe Johnson's the best they have. There's no way I'd play him in the same side as Harris- if Harris breaks down and Johnson's at his worst, it's another Melbourne 2010.

  • on September 14, 2013, 21:06 GMT

    And then he looses the 4th ODI match by being the worst of our bowlers

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on September 14, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    Such a big difference between the two sides: Australia's test cupboard is so bare they are forced to delve into their short-format specialists to get enough players; England's short-format cupboard is so bare they are forced to use some test players and play around with the rest. Both countries need to start negotiating transfers soon.

  • Big-Dog on September 14, 2013, 7:56 GMT

    The Barmy Army taunt pretty well sums up Johnson. His entire career has been a litany of inconsistency. Australia can no longer trust his performances with something as vital as the Ashes. He is best to limited over games.

  • Cam71 on September 14, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    At his best he has shown he is a genuine test quality fast bowler and when his action is solid he has been able to sustain it. He can be frighteningly quick, swings it late and extracts sharp bounce off a good length. He has broken both of Graham Smith's hands at different times and in his brief appearance last summer broke the thumb of Sangakara and put the Sri Lankan keeper out of the series as well. He is a very good test number 8 and was pretty unlucky not to be on the Ashes tour. I also think that if he is bowling well he is particularly suited to Cook and Trott. And he has also shown himself to be fairly durable as a fast bowler. I would be happy to play him if the action is holding up and looking solid.

  • on September 14, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    You obviously need to look at him in an early shield match or two but if he can maintain his current action than you almost have to pick him. Harris and Siddle are good enough bowlers to take the pressure away from him and just let him bowl. I think he really buckled once Clark and Lee went and was named the 'attack leader'. To be honest I think we need that attacking option because while Lyon and Siddle are worthy, honest tryers they are not the kinds of blokes that will run through a batting line-up.

  • Mitty2 on September 14, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    @wefinishthis, as usual, good point. However, I don't think you can really argue that Johnson is a white ball specialist... He has most definitely prospered in tests and it's just that he has such mental yips. His choking is somewhat negated in limited overs where giving a freebie can turn into a wicket. When in that 2010-12 period where he was getting smacked in tests but doing well in ODI's doesn't make him a one day specialist, but rather a symptom of his choking. But yes, it's disgraceful that O'Keefe hasn't even had a look in. By figures, he's a far better bowler than Lyon, but right now we just can't drop Lyon - imagine his confidence after

  • Mitty2 on September 14, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    It's a good point @landl47 on who's our next best strike bowler, as Harris and MJ certainly are, but Starc certainly hasn't been and isn't. But considering our quicks' success in Eng (you'd assume they'd perform better at home), do we really need a strike bowler these Ashes? From the Shield, we have lots of 130-5km/h accurate and tall bowlers such as Sandhu, Copeland, Bird and Butterworth, and then you've got the same speed but less taller but better swingers of the ball in Sayers and Mennie. Then, you've got the two faster and taller Cutting and Coulter-Nile, but neither are really strike bowlers (Cutting might be in the future), and of course you have Faulkner who's reliable and much like Siddle in the way he puts in. The only real strike bowler we have in the wings is Cummings, and well... Not much needs to be said there... So I guess in that point MJ might have to play, but really it all will come down to Shield performance (which should be of much higher quality than last year's).

  • daynighter on September 14, 2013, 5:26 GMT

    Really Deepak? Bevan? That's hilarious. I know it's fashionable to write off Johnson but what does your selection gripe of an allrounder from the 90s have to do with today's issue of Aussie bowling stocks decimated by injury in 2013? It's not like we have the luxury of choosing our best 11 on form.. with Patto, Cummins and Starc out (and no guarantees with Harris) there aren't many other new ball options on the table. The article is pretty clear in stating how he's hitting 90mph and rattling the top order (and keeping it pretty tight -going at under 4) yet you ask why he's still playing..

  • JustAnOpinion on September 13, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    Lets look at this guy's stats - 205 Test wickets @ 30.9 (in 51 tests, so almost exactly 4 per match) is really not bad in modern, batter-friendly conditions. His ODI figures are 19 wickets @ 24.9, with an economy of just 4.80 RPO and best figures of 6/31. That is world-class. His batting's handy, particularly in Tests (averaging 21.96 with one century), albeit more tail-ender than lower-order batsman or genuine all-rounder. Numbers don't tell the whole story, but they do show Johnson has a history of proving effective and at his best form he undeniably takes wickets.

    Unfortunately since the end of 2010 he has taken only 28 wickets in the 10 paltry Tests he's played, at a less sensational average of 40.39. He did hit a handy 92* against Sri Lanka at the MCG though - the Lankans' top score that match was 58! If his form looks good and English batters like Trott are struggling against him, I'd play him in Tests and see if he's turned a corner.

  • landl47 on September 13, 2013, 23:07 GMT

    The problem is you never know what you're going to get with Johnson. Two examples: in the 2010/11 Ashes he had a great match at Perth, took 9-82 in the game and bowled a wonderful spell of fast, late swing in the first innings. In the rest of the series he took 6-472, average 78. Fast forward to the 1st T20I on this tour. He started with an over giving up 17, then had a wicket maiden, then 1-7 and finished off giving up another 17. 2-41, including 2 wides and 2 no-balls. A perfect microcosm of his career- when he's good he's very, very good, but when he's bad he's horrid.

    It really all comes down to Harris' fitness. If Harris is fit, he's just as intimidating as Johnson (as he showed in the 4th test) and a lot more consistent bowler. If he's not fit, then with Starc already out Aus needs a strike bowler and maybe Johnson's the best they have. There's no way I'd play him in the same side as Harris- if Harris breaks down and Johnson's at his worst, it's another Melbourne 2010.

  • on September 14, 2013, 21:06 GMT

    And then he looses the 4th ODI match by being the worst of our bowlers

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on September 14, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    Such a big difference between the two sides: Australia's test cupboard is so bare they are forced to delve into their short-format specialists to get enough players; England's short-format cupboard is so bare they are forced to use some test players and play around with the rest. Both countries need to start negotiating transfers soon.

  • Big-Dog on September 14, 2013, 7:56 GMT

    The Barmy Army taunt pretty well sums up Johnson. His entire career has been a litany of inconsistency. Australia can no longer trust his performances with something as vital as the Ashes. He is best to limited over games.

  • Cam71 on September 14, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    At his best he has shown he is a genuine test quality fast bowler and when his action is solid he has been able to sustain it. He can be frighteningly quick, swings it late and extracts sharp bounce off a good length. He has broken both of Graham Smith's hands at different times and in his brief appearance last summer broke the thumb of Sangakara and put the Sri Lankan keeper out of the series as well. He is a very good test number 8 and was pretty unlucky not to be on the Ashes tour. I also think that if he is bowling well he is particularly suited to Cook and Trott. And he has also shown himself to be fairly durable as a fast bowler. I would be happy to play him if the action is holding up and looking solid.

  • on September 14, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    You obviously need to look at him in an early shield match or two but if he can maintain his current action than you almost have to pick him. Harris and Siddle are good enough bowlers to take the pressure away from him and just let him bowl. I think he really buckled once Clark and Lee went and was named the 'attack leader'. To be honest I think we need that attacking option because while Lyon and Siddle are worthy, honest tryers they are not the kinds of blokes that will run through a batting line-up.

  • Mitty2 on September 14, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    @wefinishthis, as usual, good point. However, I don't think you can really argue that Johnson is a white ball specialist... He has most definitely prospered in tests and it's just that he has such mental yips. His choking is somewhat negated in limited overs where giving a freebie can turn into a wicket. When in that 2010-12 period where he was getting smacked in tests but doing well in ODI's doesn't make him a one day specialist, but rather a symptom of his choking. But yes, it's disgraceful that O'Keefe hasn't even had a look in. By figures, he's a far better bowler than Lyon, but right now we just can't drop Lyon - imagine his confidence after

  • Mitty2 on September 14, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    It's a good point @landl47 on who's our next best strike bowler, as Harris and MJ certainly are, but Starc certainly hasn't been and isn't. But considering our quicks' success in Eng (you'd assume they'd perform better at home), do we really need a strike bowler these Ashes? From the Shield, we have lots of 130-5km/h accurate and tall bowlers such as Sandhu, Copeland, Bird and Butterworth, and then you've got the same speed but less taller but better swingers of the ball in Sayers and Mennie. Then, you've got the two faster and taller Cutting and Coulter-Nile, but neither are really strike bowlers (Cutting might be in the future), and of course you have Faulkner who's reliable and much like Siddle in the way he puts in. The only real strike bowler we have in the wings is Cummings, and well... Not much needs to be said there... So I guess in that point MJ might have to play, but really it all will come down to Shield performance (which should be of much higher quality than last year's).

  • daynighter on September 14, 2013, 5:26 GMT

    Really Deepak? Bevan? That's hilarious. I know it's fashionable to write off Johnson but what does your selection gripe of an allrounder from the 90s have to do with today's issue of Aussie bowling stocks decimated by injury in 2013? It's not like we have the luxury of choosing our best 11 on form.. with Patto, Cummins and Starc out (and no guarantees with Harris) there aren't many other new ball options on the table. The article is pretty clear in stating how he's hitting 90mph and rattling the top order (and keeping it pretty tight -going at under 4) yet you ask why he's still playing..

  • Mitty2 on September 14, 2013, 4:35 GMT

    Let's just get this straight... Johnson averaged 32 and 36 against England on both occasions and it was obvious in both series that his mental strength was simply not up to it. He choked, and if in Brisbane in the first innings he bowls he gets smashed... There's no chance that he will recover. His bowling technique is obviously very good atm, but i reckon when one bit of resistance comes that arm will get lower. He can't come back.

    We have to look at our back ups, and although every one has written Bird off after one test (when he was still suffering the effects of his stress fracture in India), he leads the charge. He's been the leading wicket taker two shield seasons in a row (before he got selected for Boxing Day) and as seen against SL on flat decks, he can succeed in tests. His record in Aus is far superior than in Eng. Next in line is Cutting, who had a fantastic season last year, and then I'd say Faulkner and Sayers. Hazlewood + Sandhu both have chances as well. No Johnson.

  • on September 14, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    Johnson has always been a really good ODI bowler for Australia and in test cricket he his either on or not when he is on he is devastating AUS v SA in Australia and South Africa 2008/2009.

  • handyandy on September 14, 2013, 0:46 GMT

    So many Johnson haters out there.

    At his best he is one of the most dangerous bowlers in the world.

    If he is bowling as well as he is now around December he should be one of the first players selected.

  • foozball on September 14, 2013, 0:13 GMT

    @Deepak, normally I would agree with you. But MJ has looked pretty decent in this series so far - quick and (mostly) on target.

    Of course, a few overs every few days is nothing compared to 40+ over 5. I'd much rather see Johnson show us his capabilities with some 4 day cricket back home.... if only there was some!

    Also (partly due to rain), the English bats haven't really had a chance to put the Aussie bowlers under the pump. To me, that is a far better test than 90mph for Johnson - the guy lives and dies by confidence. Let's see how he responds to getting tonked around before getting too carried away.

  • Wefinishthis on September 13, 2013, 22:47 GMT

    This is what I fear. Unlike the South African/English selectors, the clueless Australian selectors think ODI performance = Test performance. It's absolutely NOT true. The ball is different to the eyes of the batsmen and swings differently, the pitches do not have time to deteriorate, the batsmen are looking to play different shots and at times take more risks which means the bowlers need to be able to adjust their lines/lengths differently and bowl more containing balls rather than setup balls. This requires different skills/talents which is why some players are better at one or the other and some can do both. This is also explains why Australia is performing poorly in tests but competitive in ODI's. Our best red-ball players like O'Keefe keep getting overlooked for players like Starc, Johnson, Doherty, Watson etc who are all white-ball specialists. Slowly they're giving more chances to proper red-ball players like Bird, Faulkner and Rogers and we're seeing results with these players.

  • disco_bob on September 13, 2013, 22:26 GMT

    @ Deepak Chaitanya Saluru on (September 13, 2013, 16:25 GMT) oh please not this 'oh please not this again' again.

  • on September 13, 2013, 21:51 GMT

    Forget pace and work on bowling the right line over and over again as this is where you fall short, your a very good ODI bowler but you all to often lost matches because no one not even yourself knows what your going to bowl though a test match. Be happy that your a very good ODI bowler and leave the tests for bowlers that can hit the spot. We have sooo many good Test bowlers in the waiting that to recall a wayward bowler seems as silly as playing Fawad Ahmed full stop but there it is, so maybe you will come back to Tests as the selectors are as wayward as your bowling can be.

  • Cyril_Knight on September 13, 2013, 19:47 GMT

    There's no doubt that Johnson is a confidence player. When he is enjoying cricket and taking wickets he is a real talent.

    He was/is fragile. It was obvious that the taunts of the Barmy Army got to him. He folded and his bowling was absolute tosh. The arm dropped and he really did bowl to the left and right, as well as short and full. I can never recall another player melting so quickly after a world-class performance (Perth).

    However, after seeing his interviews this summer, he seems to have matured. Being dropped and out of the limelight seems to have rejuvenated him. If he has mastered the psychology of the game then he really could return as something special.

    He has unique abilities and still could have a long international career ahead of him. But only if his mind is right.

  • on September 13, 2013, 16:25 GMT

    oh please not this again....he should be dropped for good. When the selectors drop awesome players like katich and bevan, why is this bloke still playing...??

  • on September 13, 2013, 16:25 GMT

    oh please not this again....he should be dropped for good. When the selectors drop awesome players like katich and bevan, why is this bloke still playing...??

  • Cyril_Knight on September 13, 2013, 19:47 GMT

    There's no doubt that Johnson is a confidence player. When he is enjoying cricket and taking wickets he is a real talent.

    He was/is fragile. It was obvious that the taunts of the Barmy Army got to him. He folded and his bowling was absolute tosh. The arm dropped and he really did bowl to the left and right, as well as short and full. I can never recall another player melting so quickly after a world-class performance (Perth).

    However, after seeing his interviews this summer, he seems to have matured. Being dropped and out of the limelight seems to have rejuvenated him. If he has mastered the psychology of the game then he really could return as something special.

    He has unique abilities and still could have a long international career ahead of him. But only if his mind is right.

  • on September 13, 2013, 21:51 GMT

    Forget pace and work on bowling the right line over and over again as this is where you fall short, your a very good ODI bowler but you all to often lost matches because no one not even yourself knows what your going to bowl though a test match. Be happy that your a very good ODI bowler and leave the tests for bowlers that can hit the spot. We have sooo many good Test bowlers in the waiting that to recall a wayward bowler seems as silly as playing Fawad Ahmed full stop but there it is, so maybe you will come back to Tests as the selectors are as wayward as your bowling can be.

  • disco_bob on September 13, 2013, 22:26 GMT

    @ Deepak Chaitanya Saluru on (September 13, 2013, 16:25 GMT) oh please not this 'oh please not this again' again.

  • Wefinishthis on September 13, 2013, 22:47 GMT

    This is what I fear. Unlike the South African/English selectors, the clueless Australian selectors think ODI performance = Test performance. It's absolutely NOT true. The ball is different to the eyes of the batsmen and swings differently, the pitches do not have time to deteriorate, the batsmen are looking to play different shots and at times take more risks which means the bowlers need to be able to adjust their lines/lengths differently and bowl more containing balls rather than setup balls. This requires different skills/talents which is why some players are better at one or the other and some can do both. This is also explains why Australia is performing poorly in tests but competitive in ODI's. Our best red-ball players like O'Keefe keep getting overlooked for players like Starc, Johnson, Doherty, Watson etc who are all white-ball specialists. Slowly they're giving more chances to proper red-ball players like Bird, Faulkner and Rogers and we're seeing results with these players.

  • foozball on September 14, 2013, 0:13 GMT

    @Deepak, normally I would agree with you. But MJ has looked pretty decent in this series so far - quick and (mostly) on target.

    Of course, a few overs every few days is nothing compared to 40+ over 5. I'd much rather see Johnson show us his capabilities with some 4 day cricket back home.... if only there was some!

    Also (partly due to rain), the English bats haven't really had a chance to put the Aussie bowlers under the pump. To me, that is a far better test than 90mph for Johnson - the guy lives and dies by confidence. Let's see how he responds to getting tonked around before getting too carried away.

  • handyandy on September 14, 2013, 0:46 GMT

    So many Johnson haters out there.

    At his best he is one of the most dangerous bowlers in the world.

    If he is bowling as well as he is now around December he should be one of the first players selected.

  • on September 14, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    Johnson has always been a really good ODI bowler for Australia and in test cricket he his either on or not when he is on he is devastating AUS v SA in Australia and South Africa 2008/2009.

  • Mitty2 on September 14, 2013, 4:35 GMT

    Let's just get this straight... Johnson averaged 32 and 36 against England on both occasions and it was obvious in both series that his mental strength was simply not up to it. He choked, and if in Brisbane in the first innings he bowls he gets smashed... There's no chance that he will recover. His bowling technique is obviously very good atm, but i reckon when one bit of resistance comes that arm will get lower. He can't come back.

    We have to look at our back ups, and although every one has written Bird off after one test (when he was still suffering the effects of his stress fracture in India), he leads the charge. He's been the leading wicket taker two shield seasons in a row (before he got selected for Boxing Day) and as seen against SL on flat decks, he can succeed in tests. His record in Aus is far superior than in Eng. Next in line is Cutting, who had a fantastic season last year, and then I'd say Faulkner and Sayers. Hazlewood + Sandhu both have chances as well. No Johnson.

  • daynighter on September 14, 2013, 5:26 GMT

    Really Deepak? Bevan? That's hilarious. I know it's fashionable to write off Johnson but what does your selection gripe of an allrounder from the 90s have to do with today's issue of Aussie bowling stocks decimated by injury in 2013? It's not like we have the luxury of choosing our best 11 on form.. with Patto, Cummins and Starc out (and no guarantees with Harris) there aren't many other new ball options on the table. The article is pretty clear in stating how he's hitting 90mph and rattling the top order (and keeping it pretty tight -going at under 4) yet you ask why he's still playing..