Johnson still does spray the ball around. Though his control has improved a great deal, there are moments in which the old Johnson appears. For my mind, this certain lack of control is actually what gets him wickets.
Batsmen don’t know what to expect, which doesn’t give them the extra split second to conquer the incoming red grenade. Thus while he is in the midst of a violent spell, batsmen are waiting for his head high thunderbolts. At the pace Johnson bowls, the mind is constantly challenged. Reflexes are tested. More importantly, one’s natural instinct cannot be trusted. At 150+kmph, a loose ball isn’t necessarily a loose ball. Batsmen try and flash at balls outside the off without moving their feet. The cut shot or the drive becomes more a shot in relief rather than a controlled stroke.
His pace is quite obviously the separating factor. He is fast and he knows it. He is aggressive and doesn’t mind getting up in a batsman’s grill. As much as Johnson seems to have matured physically as a fast bowler, he seems have done so mentally too. Brains, brawn and the skill to execute plans are what South Africa had to tackle while facing him.
Dennis Lille and not Nita Ambani seems to have been credited for the resurgence of MJ. On the field however, Michael Clarke deserves the plaudits. His field placing has been impeccable and ingenious. He has rotated his bowlers and made Johnson bowl either short bursts or long spells depending on the situation.
In the first inning of the first Test, Johnson began with a 4 over spell and took 3 wickets. Then as soon as Amla was dismissed, Clarke brought Johnson back in the 14th over. Johnson bowled 6 overs in that spell trying to prise out AB de Villiers. Before the close of play on Day 1, Clarke made Johnson bowl a 3 over spell, in which he picked up one wicket. Clarke also began Day 2 with Mitch; another 3 over spell, another wicket.
In the second inning, Johnson was made to bowl spells of 4 overs, 5 overs and a 7 over spell. Johnson picked up 3 wickets in the 7 over spell. It was Michael Clarke’s attempt to close out the match. It worked.
Whatever the situation of the game, Johnson bowled his spells with a short leg, slips and a deep fine. Clarke allowed him to bowl the way he wanted and offered him the support for the same.
If Mitch Johnson has been a study in the art of fast bowling, Michael Clarke has been one in the art of captaincy.
Johnson’s bowling strength and wickets per innings are much better than the other bowlers in the list below. Compared to Steyn, Mitchell Johnson has played 4 innings fewer and is just 1 wicket behind.
||Wickets per innings
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