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September 13, 2013
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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