Cow Corner

Johnson finds his mojo

Cow Corner

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There
hasn't been a sportsman who had such variants of form as Mitchell Johnson since
Billy Dane, hero of Roy of the Rovers' comic strip story Billy's Boots.

After
his sub-Steve Harmison display at Brisbane, on Friday at Perth Johnson bowled
one of the great Ashes spells ending with 6-38 as England fell to 187 all out.

For
Dane, the key to transferring from being the worst footballer in his school to
the best striker was wearing a pair of old, battered football boots which
belonged to legendary goalscorer Jimmy 'Dead Shot' Keen. There would be drama
on a fortnightly basis as he would contrive to forget his boots or his nan
would almost throw them out.

What
sparks Johnson's form? A temporary tattoo of Wasim Akram on the left shoulder
he forgets to reapply often enough? Or an old string vest belonging to
Australia's best ever left-arm quick Alan Davidson?

England
fans are used to erratic bowlers. Harmison or Devon Malcolm were often that way
for England, but seldom was their best bowling as absolutely unplayable as
Johnson's was on Friday morning, or against South Africa in 2009, nor were they
by a distance the worst bowler on view as often as Mitch has been.

And as
good as James Anderson's spells were in Brisbane and Adelaide and Chris
Tremlett's yesterday, Johnson's spell of 4-20 from nine overs before lunch must
rank as the best of the series so far. As far as performances from left-handers go, it was one worthy of the Pakistan legend.

Ian Bell
has had more of a conventional career change. He is not a different player from
even the one who hit a nervous half century at The Oval in 2009, but he looks
finally - finally - to have
discovered the temperament for Tests. The journey to the other Oz to inject him
with a heart shortly afterwards has been a real success. His innings was beautifully
crafted as others struggled around him. Now he has to move above Collingwood to
ensure he is not short-changed runs due to having to bat with the tail.

Of
course Phil Hughes departed early, the third certainty of the Aussie summer
along with taxes and Mike Hussey having to dig his team out of a hole with less
than 100 on the board. Steve Finn took Hughes' wicket and then showed himself
to be the true heir to Ian Botham's golden arm when Ponting gloved his rank
legside delivery behind.

Then
Michael Clarke showed another reason why he'll face an uphill battle to be a
popular Australia captain - at least with fans of England - looking supreme
before engaging in a battle of mouth with the English fielders and promptly
chopping on to Tremlett.

But with
Australia at 119-3 at stumps, in possession of a 200-run lead and with Shane
Watson and Mike Hussey looking very well-set, England face a tough battle over
the weekend. With three days and clear skies, there's almost certain to be a
result, with Australia suddenly in a position to go to the Boxing Day Test
level in the series.

Man of the day: Mitchell Johnson: 'Super Mitch' the
England fans were singing at Brisbane. They even stopped with the Adams family
singalong ('Your girlfriend hates your mother' etc) today midway through his
superb spell - one to rank with Andrew Flintoff and Glenn McGrath's at Lord's
in recent years.

Stat of the day: 37 - the amount of first innings runs
Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke have scored between them in three Tests.
Strictly speaking not a stat of today but relevant with their poor performances
again today.

User comment of the day: "Question is... Can Johnson do it again?" - LifeLongGoone asks not just the question of the hour, but perhaps the key question for the rest of the series.

 

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