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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Cricket

Ashes 2013: Move over Miley Cyrus, Mitchell Johnson has the wrecking ball
Ipsit Mohapatra
December 12, 2013
First Published: 19:01 IST(12/12/2013)
Last Updated: 20:12 IST(12/12/2013)

Payback is a Mitch these days if you are the England cricket team or its fan.

Mitchell Johnson has ensured life is pretty scary Down Under this season for the English, who are down 2-0 in the Ashes.

Alastair Cook and his men are not completely out of the contest yet, but Johnson seems intent on dragging them to the pits in the course of the next three Tests.

Injuries, concussions, bruised ribs and fingers, dented helmets, cartwheeling stumps, hurt egos and broken spirits - the left-arm slinger has brought each of these scenarios within the realm of possibility.

At this point in time, Johnson is wrecking England with the ball. For this very simple reason, sportoholic is going to award the freshly mustachioed fast bowler the "Wrecking Ball" title.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2013/12/MitchellJohnsonBW-blog-665.jpg

We are stealing this title off Miley Cyrus and it is okay. The 21-year-old twerker can live with it, secure in the knowledge that her video of the song is 2013's highest-viewed. With a staggering 371 million views and closing in on 400 million, Miley is the belle of the ball.

However, the excitement she triggers is different from the brand Johnson is offering right now.

VIDEO: Watch Mitch Unleashed in Ashes

Cricket has had faster bowlers - Jeff Thomson, Shoaib Akhtar, Shaun Tait and Mohammad Sami, but the sustained hostility Johnson managed in the first two Tests, at Brisbane and Adelaide Oval, was a feast for the senses numbed by dead pitches.

Batsmen do not seem too uncomfortable these days facing fast bowling. Simply put, Johnson has shown what the test in Test cricket is all about even with all the protective gear.

You may lose your wicket to swing and guile, but here's a bloke who can knock your block off. Leg-side catches accounted for 21 of 40 (52.5%) English wickets in the first two Tests. Johnson sure has them hopping.

He is not at master assassin Dale Steyn's level yet, but the series has given him a shot at redemption after years of frustratingly erratic bowling.

Many with searing pace walk that erratic path, but when it all comes together, the result is breathtaking.  Remember those two magical deliveries from Shoaib that claimed Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in succession in the 1999 Asian Test Championship in Kolkata?

VIDEO: Watch Shoaib magic from that February day in 1999

Johnson has pocketed 17 wickets in the two Tests at a Shylockian average of 12.50 and the whole of Oz is promising the Poms it's going to become even more terrifying.

The third Test begins on Friday the 13th. What's more, the venue is Perth. There won't be a Jason in a mask to scythe through people, but Johnson will be ready to wreak havoc on what is again being talked up by the Aussies as the fastest pitch in the world.

Joe Root, Ian Bell and Matt Prior have started standing up to him. The rest need to pull their weight, particularly Kevin Pietersen and Cook.

After having seen England dominate the last three Ashes, Aussie skipper Michael Clarke will be in no mood to let up on the aggression. He will again unleash Johnson in short bursts and Australia will hope the pacer recreates the magic 6/38 spell that had floored England at Perth three years ago.

Here's a little something to show the kind of impact player Johnson, who has grown his Movember and is keeping it going, is. He has been the man of the match in all three Ashes Tests Australia have managed to win during England's period of dominance in recent years.

VIDEO: When Johnson swung it sharp at Perth in December 2010

A reversal of fortune
What a difference a few months have made in Johnson's career. He was not picked for the July-August English leg of the Ashes. England won that one 3-0 at a canter.

Over the years, England's fans - the Barmy Army - took a shine to him. For long, he was the butt of their jokes. Not anymore.

After struggling for form and with a toe injury, he slowly began regaining his mojo with the legendary Dennis Lillee always there for him.

Lillee, who had the fearsome Thomson with him to hunt down England four decades ago, has always been in Johnson's corner. Many years ago, Lillee had described Johnson as a once-in-a-generation bowler.

Now, Johnson looks in line to prove himself worthy of the high praise from the master.    

After plumbing the cricketing depths, behind-the-scenes hard work began showing in Johnson's performances in India in October. With an eye on the Ashes, the Aussies sent him back home even before the final ODI in India. The smart move is paying fearsome dividends.

And, congratulations to Cook and Clarke. The skippers play their 100th Test together on Friday - that's a first.

Be a sport. Keep playing.


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