International cricket will be greyer for the absence of the retired Mitchell Johnson. He could be a merciless, muscular hunter, homing in on batsmen with taut focus and hostile intent, or, occasionally, a stiff-limbed, scoreboard-accelerating liability. Overall, he has an excellent Test record.
He may not stand especially high in the pantheon of all-time greatest cricketers, but his bowling in the 2013-14 season was as good as anything in the history of the game. Fifty-nine wickets in eight Tests, at an average of 15, including at least six in each of the seven matches Australia won. He destroyed England to the point of total on- and off-pitch disintegration, as one of the most professionally organised teams in cricket history was reduced to a quivering, bickering blancmange. He then went to South Africa and took 12 wickets in 33 overs of pace perfection in the first Test, including five of the top seven in both innings. He took seven in the match in the decisive final Test, before Ryan Harris applied the final coup de grace in one of the most dramatic series denouements of modern times.
If you were to pick one ball as the finest bowled in Test cricket this millennium, out of the just over 1.4 million candidates, his delivery to clean-bowl Alastair Cook in the first innings in Adelaide should at the very least be on your shortlist, approximately 1.4 million places above some of the balls he bowled at Lord's in 2009. It was a fraction-of-a-second-long masterpiece of high-velocity, moving-just-enough unplayability that clattered the off stump of one of the most immovable barriers in world cricket. Cook had been bowled out only 12 times in his 99-Test career - nine times he had played on off the inside edge, and once been bowled off his pads. This was only the third time he had been clean-bowled in more than 17,000 balls of stump-shielding defiance.
From discard to destroyer, Johnson in those eight Tests gave Australia two of its greatest series victories, gave cricket one of its most thrilling bursts of individual brilliance, and gave himself his career-defining peak. There have been many greater bowlers than Mitchell Johnson, but few who have achieved such a pinnacle of greatness.
He leaves, after this fascinating and fluctuating career, two-thirds of the way through a ludicrously high-scoring series. Perth, for so long a beacon of pacy hope in a pitch-preparation world of increasing sludgery, churned out batting landmarks like a school canteen churns out disappointing sausages.
It was the third Test ever in which a player from both sides has scored 250 or more - Warner (253) and Taylor (290) followed in the bat-waving footsteps of Australia's Bobby Simpson (311) and Ken Barrington of England (256) in the numbingly tedious Old Trafford Ashes Test of 1964, and Aravinda de Silva (267) and Martin Crowe (299), who made statistical hay in the New Zealand v Sri Lanka Test in Wellington in 1990-91. Following Cook's 263 in Abu Dhabi, the 2015-16 season is already in joint-second place in the list of Seasons With Most Test 250s. Only the Big Batting Bonanza of 2003-04 stands ahead, when five 250-plus scored were hit, including Hayden and Lara breaking and re-breaking the record Test score, and Virender Sehwag scoring 309 against Pakistan in Multan at the snooze-inducing, almost Kirstenian strike rate of a mere 82 runs per 100 balls. It was the only one of Sehwag's four 250-plus scores made at less than a run-a-ball.
"Perth, for so long a beacon of pacey hope in a pitch-preparation world of increasing sludgery, churned out batting landmarks like a school canteen churns out disappointing sausages"
The 1315 runs scored by Nos. 1 to 4 in the Perth Test smashed the previous record of 1150, and this despite New Zealand openers Martin Guptill and Tom Latham heroically standing up for Bowlers' Rights by failing to register a half-century for the second Test in succession.
The previous record was set in the famous Leeds Test of 1948, which England managed to lose after being 423 for 2 before nightwatchman Alec Bedser was out for 79 on day two. The game culminated in a Bradman-inspired Australia chasing 404 on the final day to win, aided by an England over rate of more than 20 per hour - unexceptional for the time, but which today would have coaches scurrying around the dressing room shouting: "Is someone sitting on the remote control? I think they're all on fast-forward." Simpler times.
Perth was also only the second Test ever in which three different No. 3 batsmen have scored hundreds, after Usman Khawaja's injury allowed Steven Smith to join him and the staggering Kane Williamson on the honours board. The only previous instance was when Pakistan's Saeed Ahmed and West Indians Clyde Walcott and Garfield Sobers (the match after he scored 365 not out) all posted hundreds batting at No. 3 in Guyana in 1958. As high-scoring run-fests go, this was a good one, but, to me, this is a category of a similar level of intrigue and fascination as Most Charismatic Potato.
Since his 2013-14 hyperheyday, Australia's Test pitches (and, it seems, balls) have given little to Johnson, or indeed any bowler - no bowler is averaging under 30 in the six Tests played in Baggy Greenland this season and last.
In the current series, bowlers are collectively averaging 54 (the highest such figure for a series in Australia), and only two have an economy rate of three per over or better - the notoriously miserly masters of bowling asphyxiation Adam Voges (one over for three runs) and Guptill (three overs for seven).
Perhaps this further highlights the indelible quality of the 2013-14 Johnson. Perhaps it highlights a trend in bowler-blunting, career-shortening pitch preparation. All in all, it seems a good time for an ageing fast bowler to retire, leaving the memories of his good, his less good, his bad and his transfixingly magnificent best.