Apr 152014
 

Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson has revealed that he may need to reconsider his availability in all three forms of cricket to ensure his fitness for the 2015 Ashes Series in England.

The 32-year-old pace bowler returned to the Test ranks to bowl Australia to a home Ashes whitewash as well as a series victory in South Africa in the winter.

An infection caused by a cut to his right big toe sustained during the final Test of the summer in Cape Town forced Johnson’s withdrawal from the World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh in which the Aussies failed to progress beyond the group stage.

When asked if his body could stand up to the rigours of the limited form of the game, Johnson said: “Probably not.”

He hinted that he might join his captain Michael Clarke in opting out of playing 20-over cricket for his country and added: “I think I’ve got to be a lot smarter now.

“Twenty20 cricket you don’t play a lot of anyway, it just happened at this time there was a World Cup straight after the South Africa series which I was looking forward to being involved in before I got injured.

“Twenty20, I will quite happily say, is not my favourite format – I would rather play Test cricket.

“And maybe one-day (50-over international) cricket I have to look at as well.”

However, Johnson insisted he was hopeful of making the one-day squad for the 2015 World Cup to be played at home in Australia and New Zealand next February and March.

“I’d like to win a World Cup – I’ve been involved in the West Indies in 2007 which was a well-paid holiday apparently,” he said smiling broadly.

“And while it was tough work, the campaign we went through, it was a good place to be and a great experience.

“So I would love to be a part of Australia’s 2015 World Cup and I certainly think we’ve got the team to win it.

“We’ve played some really good one-day cricket and given that it’s being played at home, it would be a great opportunity.

“But my main goal now is to get to that 2015 Ashes series in England, so I’ll be doing everything I can to reach that goal.”

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Apr 012014
 
Jonathan Trott ready for comeback over four months after he left ill-fated Ashes tour due to stress-related illness

Trott has earmarked Warwickshire’s two-day friendly against Gloucestershire at Edgbaston, starting on Tuesday, as his comeback match.
The 32-year-old has not picked up a bat in anger since twice falling cheaply to man-of-the-series Mitchell Johnson at…

Mar 312014
 
Jonathan Trott set for return to action against Gloucestershire
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JONATHAN Trott is set to play cricket for the first time in more than four months, since he had to leave England’s troubled Ashes tour with a stress-related illness.

Trott has earmarked Warwickshire’s two-day friendly against Gloucestershire at Edgbaston, starting today, as his comeback match.

The 32-year-old has not picked up a bat in anger since twice falling cheaply to man-of-the-series Mitchell Johnson at the Gabba last November in the opening defeat of England’s Ashes whitewash.

Trott made no public comment at the time, but this month gave a series of interviews to select broadcast, print and online outlets.

His recollection of events, and his reaction to them, divided opinion as pundits took the opportunity to publicly debate the nature of Trott’s troubles.

But for the first time, back at the ground he knows best, he has the opportunity to let his bat do the talking again.

Mar 152014
 
Dale Steyn best fast bowler, says Waqar

KOLKATA: Refusing to compare Dale Steyn with Australian speedster Mitchell Johnson, Pakistan pace legend Waqar Younis on Saturday hailed the South African as the world’s best fast bowler and one of the greats seen in the last 20-30 years.”I regard him …

Feb 192014
 
Graeme Smith confident he can win ugly against Mitchell Johnson

England’s destroyer-in-chief was at it again at Centurion, taking just four balls to twice claim the scalp of the captain on his way to match figures of 12 for 127 in a crushing victory. But Smith is nothing if not a believer in his own ability, so his sniffiness over Johnson’s recent successes before the second Test, which starts in Port Elizabeth this morning, was not altogether surprising.

“I truly believe that the wicket played a big role in the success that he had. The stats, even in the Ashes, say that he picked up a lot of lower-order wickets,” Smith said, conveniently ignoring the fact that eight of Johnson’s latest haul were top-six batsmen. “It’s important not to get caught up in the hype. Obviously we know Mitchell has bowled extremely well, bowled aggressively. We all know that creates headlines, creates stories, creates fanfare.”

Smith added: “I’ve faced Mitchell a lot of times – times where he’s had the better of me and times I’ve had the better of him. One dismissal doesn’t make you lose credibility. A lot of guys have been able to perform against the fastest bowlers in the world over a long time. I’ve made a career out of looking ugly. If I can keep doing that I’ll be happy.”

The decision to insert Australia at Centurion backfired spectacularly on Smith, who is under increased scrutiny from the South African media after the baffling abandonment of their world-record run chase in the first Test against India in December. Victory in the second Test ensured they eventually won that series but former captain Shaun Pollock believes the 33-year-old must lead their recovery.

“I wouldn’t say he’s under any more pressure than usual as captain,” Pollock told The Independent, “but as an opening batsman he has the opportunity to set the tone for the match and if he can post a good score, I can see South Africa coming back.”

It is five years since the Proteas lost two successive Tests – during their last series defeat to Australia in 2008-09.

“I don’t think you can say Johnson has got into their heads but it was a brilliant performance,” Pollock added.

“We’ll have to see whether he can keep up that kind of form for the whole series like he did against England but it’s up to South Africa to come up with a plan.”

Feb 192014
 
Graeme Smith confident he can win ugly against Mitchell Johnson

England’s destroyer-in-chief was at it again at Centurion, taking just four balls to twice claim the scalp of the captain on his way to match figures of 12 for 127 in a crushing victory. But Smith is nothing if not a believer in his own ability, so his sniffiness over Johnson’s recent successes before the second Test, which starts in Port Elizabeth this morning, was not altogether surprising.

“I truly believe that the wicket played a big role in the success that he had. The stats, even in the Ashes, say that he picked up a lot of lower-order wickets,” Smith said, conveniently ignoring the fact that eight of Johnson’s latest haul were top-six batsmen. “It’s important not to get caught up in the hype. Obviously we know Mitchell has bowled extremely well, bowled aggressively. We all know that creates headlines, creates stories, creates fanfare.”

Smith added: “I’ve faced Mitchell a lot of times – times where he’s had the better of me and times I’ve had the better of him. One dismissal doesn’t make you lose credibility. A lot of guys have been able to perform against the fastest bowlers in the world over a long time. I’ve made a career out of looking ugly. If I can keep doing that I’ll be happy.”

The decision to insert Australia at Centurion backfired spectacularly on Smith, who is under increased scrutiny from the South African media after the baffling abandonment of their world-record run chase in the first Test against India in December. Victory in the second Test ensured they eventually won that series but former captain Shaun Pollock believes the 33-year-old must lead their recovery.

“I wouldn’t say he’s under any more pressure than usual as captain,” Pollock told The Independent, “but as an opening batsman he has the opportunity to set the tone for the match and if he can post a good score, I can see South Africa coming back.”

It is five years since the Proteas lost two successive Tests – during their last series defeat to Australia in 2008-09.

“I don’t think you can say Johnson has got into their heads but it was a brilliant performance,” Pollock added.

“We’ll have to see whether he can keep up that kind of form for the whole series like he did against England but it’s up to South Africa to come up with a plan.”

Feb 192014
 
The cult of Mitch alive and well

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EVEN South African kids have been taken by Mitchell Johnson.

Johnson winds up with that distinctive slingy action of his and is about to unleash a thu

Johnson winds up with that distinctive slingy action of his and is about to unleash a thunderbolt. Source: Getty Images

He has become an instant cult hero in South Africa, with local youngsters wearing copies of his marauding moustache and attempting to get close to him when he was fielding on the fence.

While their bruised and battered cricket team may disagree, these children have been privileged to witness one of the great moments in cricket, a genuinely terrifying fast bowler at the peak of his powers.

No one under 40 has seen an Australian fast bowler as dangerous and damaging as Johnson during this last, spectacular three months.

In six Tests since returning to the national side, Johnson, 32, has claimed a staggering 49 wickets at an average of just 13 apiece with a strike rate of just 27 balls per wicket, half what any good fast bowler would be happy with.

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But the figures are only half the story. It is the terrifying nature of Johnson’s bowling, the constant fear factor of what may happen next, which has made Johnson so imposing, as he has scared batsmen physically and mentally.

Not since Jeff Thomson at his peak in the mid ‘70s has Australia had a bowler so dramatic and dangerous.

The world may never have seen a faster bowler than Thomson in full flight and his unique sling-shot action meant the ball just suddenly appeared as he brought his arm from around behind his back and launched it at the batsmen.

Coming at ya. Johnson lets the ball go during the first Test between Australia and South

Coming at ya. Johnson lets the ball go during the first Test between Australia and South Africa. Source: Getty Images

Johnson is not as quick as Thomson and does not have that same exaggerated javelin-propelling action but Australia’s current pace pack attack leader is also a slinger who surprises batmen with his action and probably feels quicker than the 150kph he generates.

But the one thing that Thomson and Johnson have in common is their ability to make the ball explode off the pitch from just short of a length.

Deliveries that would normally be played off the mid-rift are suddenly climbing at a batsmen’s throat.

The nasty bouncer which felled Ryan McLaren and forced him to spend Sunday night in hospital with delayed concussion was not the most dangerous delivery Johnson delivered during the first Test.

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Nor was it the ball that took off at Faf du Plessis, who could do no more than fend it to Michael Clarke at second slip off the glove.

It was the delivery that seared at Hashim Amla before he had faced a ball in the second innings, flying between his raised arms as he tried to get his bat in front of his face and crashing into the grill of the helmet. Thank goodness for helmets.

Although he did not make a big score Amla played delightful back foot drives against Johnson shortly after being struck. That was brave batting.

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It takes real courage to play Test cricket against genuine fast bowling. There is nowhere to hide. The world is watching and any sign of fear is suddenly pounced on by opponents, commentators and spectators.

South Africa have some very fine, courageous batsmen. The question is do they have the skill to deal with Johnson at his most deadly? So far the answer is no.

Dean Elgar gets a short ball from Johnson.

Dean Elgar gets a short ball from Johnson. Source: News Limited

THANKS FOR COMING

Dean Elgar is expected to make his return to Test cricket today in place of the injured Ryan McLaren.

Two days before the Test, Cricket South Africa dropped Elgar off its contract list and included a promising young kid named Quinton de Kock, who some good judges believe should be in the team.

Except that Elgar is in South Africa’s 15-man Test squad and de Kock is not.

It’s hardly a vote of confidence in a batsman who is expected to help shore up the team in the face of Mitchell Johnson’s onslaught, particularly given that the last time Elgar played Australia he made a pair on debut, dismissed both times by Johnson.

SAY THAT AGAIN

It’s not just CSA’s communications with its player that can do with a good deal of work. It’s communications with the general public are even worse.

On Sunday evening, Ryan McLaren was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for delayed concussion after being struck a nasty blow in the helmet by Mitchell Johnson.

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A day later, chairman of selectors Andrew Hudson and coach Russell Domingo did press conferences talking about the possible make-up of the team for the second Test in Port Elizabeth with no suggestion there were any problems with McLaren.

Then on Tuesday morning, CSA released a statement saying that McLaren had been ruled out.

The message, don’t believe a word we say.

Feb 192014
 
Graeme Smith plays down Mitchell Johnson 'hype'

Confident of a South African comeback in the second Test, Smith said the hosts would focus on maximizing their skills rather than getting caught up in the hype around Johnson

Graeme Smith plays down Mitchell Johnson 'hype' (© Reuters)

Reuters

Port Elizabeth, South Africa:  South African captain Graeme Smith on Wednesday played down the “hype” around Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson ahead of the second Test which starts at St George’s Park on Thursday.

Johnson destroyed the South African batting in the first Test at Centurion with match figures of 12 for 127, spearheading Australia to a 281-run win.

“It’s important not to get caught up in the hype,” said Smith. “Obviously Mitchell bowled extremely well and bowled aggressively.

“We all know that creates headlines, stories and fanfare. There’s huge respect in our team for someone who is performing well but it’s important for us to focus on getting our skills right.”

Smith said there had been no special attention paid to Johnson either by the team or himself personally.

Smith faced four balls from Johnson in the first Test and was dismissed twice.

“I’ve faced Mitchell a lot of times – times where he’s had the better of me and times where I have had the better of him. The wicket at Centurion with the new ball and the cracks played a really important role.

“We’ve had a general group discussion on areas that we want to improve. We haven’t watched any more video or anything different than we did before the first Test.

“I can watch videotapes of me scoring hundreds against Mitchell Johnson. Every player here has had success against this attack, not so long ago.”

The South African captain said his team had prepared well as they set out to reverse a crushing defeat in the first Test.

“I believe our mindsets and our game plans are good. Ultimately it’s about walking the walk now and going out over the next five days and being able to produce the performances to show that,” he said.

Smith said South Africa would put their experiences in the first Test to good use.

“It’s a fairly quick turnaround which I believe is a good thing. We’ve got straight back into our work and had some good discussions,” he said.

“I think we lacked a bit of real competitive cricket coming into this series and we were outplayed. We’ve now got to get ourselves back into the series over the next five days and I’m hoping we’ll be better for it.”

Speculation that South Africa would opt for a seventh specialist batsman to replace injured all-rounder Ryan McLaren was fuelled when Dean Elgar had a lengthy net during the team’s final practice.

But Smith said the make-up of the team would only be discussed when selection convener Andrew Hudson arrived in Port Elizabeth later on Wednesday.

But Smith had a swipe at his country’s administrators, who announced on Tuesday that Elgar and fellow Test squad member Thami Tsolekile had not had their central contracts renewed.

“It’s obviously tough,” he said. “My role is to hopefully keep them focused on what’s important and that’s tomorrow. If they get an opportunity to play hopefully that’s an opportunity for them to put it right.

“It’s another curve ball that’s tough to deal with but we’ve got to find a way.”

The South African captain said he expected a “normal” Port Elizabeth pitch. “We don’t come here that often in the longer form of the game. Obviously we’ll be happy with a result wicket but we’ll be happy with a good Test wicket.”

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