Inconsistency has plagued nearly the entirety of Mitchell Johnsons career. So much so that everytime the Australian fast bowler makes a comeback after a long spell out of the national side,a decent performance or two by the 32-year old is usually termed as a second wind.
But finally,considering how he has made life difficult for the Indian batters on featherbeds this series,Johnson looks like he is intent on making up for lost time.
On Saturday at the PCA Stadium,Johnson,bowling consistently over 150 kmph,was near unplayable. And everytime he bent his back on an unresponsive pitch,the Townsvillian managed to extract not only sharp bounce,but wickets too.
In the 13th over of the innings,Johnsons fifth,fast and accurate short ones saw the end of both Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh caught behind and at first slip respectively to leave the left-arm seamer on a hat-trick. Then when he was brought back for his third spell in the 31st over of the innings,Johnson struck immediately. The third left-hander in Indias middle order,Ravindra Jadeja,feebly surrendering to another spicy one.
At that point,India were tottering at 154/6,but Johnson wasnt done yet. Just when Ravichandran Ashwin began looking dangerous with the bat,he was caught behind off a Johnson ball that kept lower than expected. The pacer finished with 4/46,quite easily his best bowling performance in ODIs against a Test-playing side in the last 24 months.
There may be no ICC Cricketer of the Year (Johnson was the winner in 2009) awards waiting for him at the end of 2013 and neither are those voices that claimed he was the next Dennis Lillee at the beginning of his career very loud now. But Johnson is learning to be something he never had in the past consistent.
Long road back
It had been a tough start of Johnsons year. Although he was part of Australias Test squad that toured India earlier this year,Johnson was one of four members involved in the infamous Homeworkgate. Subsequently,he dropped before the Ashes. Just when the doors seemed to be closing on the ageing pacer,his mentor,Terry Alderman,stepped in.
Helping him get his place back,Alderman ensured that the bowler gained his pace back first,something he had lost since his stress fracture on the foot from a couple of years ago.
He suggested a new wrist position and also lengthened my run-up. It has helped me add a few yards of pace, Johnson was quoted as saying.
A day before the Jaipur game,Virat Kohli was asked just why India had found it difficult to face Johnsons bouncers. Kohli replied: We do not get out to bouncers,we got out in the slips and LBW,playing bad shots. Just take a look at the scoreboard and count how many wickets have actually fallen to a short ball. None.
That count had gone up rather drastically in Mohali. Five out of Indias top seven to be precise,four of which Johnson caused single-handedly.