Cricket: Johnson confirms his class with 10

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The Independent Online
ANYONE who can dismiss Brian Lara twice in three weeks might well fancy his chances against Derbyshire's current batting line-up, but Richard Johnson's capture of all 10 second-innings wickets for Middlesex on Saturday remains a startling performance, writes Glenn Moore.

It is 30 years since the feat was last achieved in England and, until Desmond Haynes was introduced into the attack with nine wickets down, Johnson received no artificial help from his side.

Despite his twin dismissals of Lara in May, Johnson, 19, is little known on the circuit, having played just two first-class games before this season. He is quickly remedying that and, although Saturday was exceptional, it was by no means a complete freak for he has bowled regularly and well this season.

Neither will it have surprised the Young England set-up, many of whom were regarded as justification for a policy of increasing international age-group cricket, a philosophy believed at odds with Ray Illingworth's preference for giving youngsters more senior cricket.

Johnson has toured South Africa and Sri Lanka with Young England sides and is regarded by the Under-19 coach, Graham Saville, as their brightest prospect.

His approach to the wicket is similar in appearance to that of his Middlesex team-mate, Angus Fraser, and he looks as if he could be quite sharp as he develops.

The last man to take all 10, Ian Thomson of Sussex, still managed to end up on the losing side. Having exploited a rain-affected Worthing wicket with his right arm medium pace, he saw Warwickshire dismiss his side for a mere 23.

Thomson, then 35 and uncapped, ended the season with a place on England's tour of South Africa where he played all five Tests, his only England appearances.

Johnson's wickets went better rewarded. Having taken his first seven in nine overs, he ended with 10 for 45 as Derbyshire were bowled out for 105 to lose by an innings and 96 runs.

Then it was a case of reaching for the ice-bucket, but not for champagne as much to comfort a knee that should really be under the knife.

'I need an operation to get rid of some floating cartilage but it will have to wait,' he said.

As long as it does not wait too long, for there is going to be a lot more bowling required from Johnson, and not only for Middlesex. Already an England A place beckons this winter.