There are moments in this sporting life when the privilege and the pleasure of being there transcends all else. The events at the Adelaide Oval yesterday fitted firmly, unequivocally somewhere near the top of the category.
Mitchell Johnson of Australia produced a brief spell of fast bowling which was unremitting in its ferocity and unwavering in its intent. He was quick, much too quick for a hapless set of batsmen who did not know how to cope and did not seem eager to learn.
He finished with 7 for 40, the best figures of his career, to add to the nine wickets he took in the first Test at Brisbane. It was utterly breathtaking, sumptuous fast bowling by a man whose Test career looked finished for most of this year.
“I didn’t doubt I could get back into the Test team if I worked hard and gave myself every chance,” he said. “I made sure I did everything right with my toe injury and took my time, working on the things I needed to work on.
“Earlier in my career when I had stress fractures I rushed back. I met some really good, positive people along the way which helped but having the belief in myself has been the biggest thing with my wife and family backing me 100 per cent.”
Johnson was irresistible. England had no answer during a burst after lunch when he took 5 for 12 in 18 balls, twice being on a hat-trick. Only Ian Bell played him with any certainty, such certainty indeed that he looked as though he could have batted with a stick of celery.
“I was definitely nervous at the start of this series,” said Johnson. “I hadn’t played a Test match in a long while and with what England had done to us in the past in the last few Ashes series. I was able to push it aside and bowl the way I wanted to bowl, for the team and working well with other bowlers. I didn’t have any doubts.”
Bell was sublime throughout his innings. He had time to play and took it. When Johnson tried to bounce he carved him over slip, otherwise he defended calmly. He sought no excuses.
“It's another disappointing performance really,” Bell said. “You can't afford in Test matches, certainly in the first innings you have, to get bowled out under 200, you're not going to win anything. You can't go away from that. The guys in that dressing room have played a lot of cricket and there's no excuses, it's just not good enough.
“When Mitchell Johnson's bowling at his best, if you get a couple of good ones first up, Alastair Cook I thought got a fantastic delivery, it's good enough for anyone in the world. But obviously we're going to have to find an answer pretty quickly because he's blowing us away middle and lower order. ‘’ If not today, then by next Friday in Perth. It may be much too soon.”