That intimidating force called Mitchell Johnson
It might be a weird observation, but 2013 was a year ruled by the men in moustaches. The early part of the year saw a new face that got enormous success for the Indian cricket team – Shikhar Dhawan. The left-hander made an incredible debut against Australia at Mohali and followed it with consistent match-winning performances in all formats of the game. ‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja has his own inimitable style and the Indian cricket fans saw him bowling some outstanding spells, and with a moustache. But there was one player, who arguably overshadowed the rest - Mitchell Johnson.
Ahead of the Ashes series, Mitchell Johnson was seen as a bowler who could trouble the English batsmen, but nobody thought he would do something which would put careers at stake. Johnson initially grew a moustache to raise money for men`s health charity `Movember` last year, but then for some reasons, decided to keep it for the entire Ashes series. And with each Test match, Johnson not only looked threatening with that mo, but also found a new rhythm to his pace.
It was amazing to see how Johnson single-handedly got the Australians back in their groove. Months before the return Ashes kicked off, Johnson wasn’t in the scheme of things for Australia’s squad. It was his bowling during the Indian Premier League, which had glimpses of his past, and it was from there onwards that the cricket experts began a discussion whether he could play a crucial role in reclaiming the urn for the Michael Clarke-led side.
Alastair Cook would have been confident enough of a decent show ahead of the series. But by the end the tour, England left Australia with bruised players and broken helmets. A side which had defeated Australia in their backyard some months ago, failed terribly in tackling Johnson, who was probably in the form of his life. England already had their own issues with players leaving the series mid way, and Johnson only added to their woes.
And for many who thought Johnson’s performance against England was a fluke, the 32-year-old`s performance against South Africa in the first Test, was a testament of the fact how he had transformed himself into an unplayable bowler.
The way South Africa struggled, it seemed as if the Ashes had continued with Australia taking on a different opponent. From no angle did it look like the match was played at Centurion – South Africa`s home ground. The first Test was all about Mitchell Johnson, who guided his side to 1-0 lead in the series. He single-handedly overshadowed the fearsome trio of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, who achieved enormous success in the two-match Test series against India.
At a time when the T20 format is rapidly gaining popularity all across the world, Johnson has suddenly added a new life into the art of pace bowling in Test. And there is no respite for the batsmen, as the seamer is leaving them in tatters, both mentally and physically. 12 wickets from just 33.1 overs has rung the alarm bells for South Africa. With two more Tests remaining, Smith and his boys have an uphill task at hand.
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