Is Mitch the difference between teams?

2009-08-12 00:00

THERE was much speculation before the Ashes got under way as to the role Mitchell Johnson would play in this much anticipated series. Based on his impressive performance in South Africa at the beginning of the year, many of us believed that he could well be the difference between the two sides on English soil. However, by the third Test match, Johnson had us all scratching our heads, wondering how it was possible for him to go off the boil in such dramatic fashion.

A few months before, Johnson had indeed been the difference between Australia and South Africa in the series here. Despite being relatively inexperienced, Johnson shouldered nearly the entire Australian attack, which had been seriously depleted due to injuries and retirements.

The collective experience of Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus was a mere handful of Test matches and yet they dominated the South African batsmen with Johnson leading from the front.

Johnson was quick to make his mark, showing just what an aggressive bowler he is with impressive pace and swing to boot.

As a left-hander, Johnson has the advantage of being able to move the ball across the right-hander and also back into them at significant pace. We saw how this created indecision for the South African batsmen, who were unsure whether to play the ball or to leave it. With deliveries up to 150 kilometres an hour, there was little time for them to decide and many of our players, in two minds, induced edges to the keeper.

Despite the fact that Johnson arrived in England with relatively little Test experience, he still came with an enormous reputation as Australia’s bowling trump card. He battled in the warm-up games, but the Australian selectors appeared unconcerned and confident in his ability to lead the attack in the Test matches.

As the first Test match unfolded, however, Johnson appeared to have lost it completely. He had no control over his swing, and his line and length, so disciplined in the past, deserted him. The English batsmen laid into him and carved him to all areas of the ground.

Johnson, who should have been Ponting’s destroyer in chief, looked in tatters and his captain appeared understandably concerned. Ponting, to his credit, did everything to help him. He tried to give him more protection in the field and more overs in the hope that he would regain his rhythm, but in vain. The runs kept flowing for England and Ponting was a worried man. With just two Test matches to go, and England one up in the series, Johnson must have been sure he would be dropped.

But Ponting and the selectors took a brave decision, persisting with Johnson for the fourth Test at Headingley. I believe by keeping faith in him, despite his dismal performances, Johnson’s confidence received a much-needed boost. His impressive display at Headingley gave him the chance to repay the (no doubt very relieved) selectors for the faith they had shown in him.

Johnson’s performance at Headingley reminded us that he is a classy bowler. The Australian support bowlers rallied round him and produced an emphatic victory.

Now Andrew Strauss will be the concerned captain. Mitchell Johnson back in form, bowling with renewed confidence and vigour and finally with wickets under his belt, will be a formidable challenge for his batsmen at the Oval.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Johnson in the series so far, but he might have what it takes to be the difference between the two sides. Will he prove it in the final Test match? It’s an enthralling prospect.


Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.