Ashes 2015: Mitchell Johnson back to the speed of last series, warns Adam Voges

Australia's new boy reveals net sessions are lively as fast bowler returns to his peak

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The Independent Online

There was the worst possible news for England only two days before the start of the Ashes. Mitchell Johnson, their nemesis on the ill-fated expedition to Australia two winters ago, is back to his considerable peak.

This information was delivered matter of factly by Adam Voges, the Australian middle-order batsman who is about to play his first Ashes series at the age of 35. It is possible that he was bluffing to place doubt in  England’s minds but he sounded impeccably sincere. If he is correct, England could be in early trouble.

“Our net sessions aren’t much fun at all at the moment, to be honest,” said Voges. “He’s got his zip back, he’s bowling fast and he’s swinging them as well. That is the  biggest thing with Mitch, there’s always been genuine pace, but when he’s swinging it at pace as well then he’s a different proposition.

“We saw him hit Shaun Marsh on the hand, Steve Smith ended up on his backside by the stumps at one stage, so he’s as ready to go as he possibly can be. I’m sure he’s going to play a huge part in this series.”

That sounded like a promise as well as a threat. Johnson has been struggling to find his rhythm lately after an uneven tour of West Indies and inauspicious start to this one. But he is experienced enough to know that it is peaking on the day that matters. After his exploits from Brisbane to Sydney last time, Johnson will undoubtedly be more determined than ever to leave his mark on an Ashes series in England (as well on some of the opponents’ batsmen).

 

Johnson took 37 wickets at an average of 13.97 in the five matches of the 2013-14 series, which were largely responsible for Australia’s 5-0 victory. His fortunes in two other series against England have been more mixed.

Although he took 20 wickets in the 2009 campaign, he was never a consistent threat and allowed himself to be badly affected by the barracking home crowd. Apart from one glorious spell in Perth 2010-11 when he was irresistible, England dealt with him comfortably.

It remains possible that his age might catch up with him as it might in the case of a few other of the Australians. He is approaching his 34th birthday, which is getting on for a fast bowler who bowls at Johnson’s velocity. Of the likely team for the first Test in Cardiff on Wednesday, six are past their 30th birthday. Voges made no attempt to disguise the fact that many of them are ageing in sporting terms.

“Look, we are, there’s no point tiptoeing around it,” he said. “We’ve got a number of guys who are over 30. That does bring experience but I think in today’s game we are a lot stronger, a lot fitter, we train more than ever before.

“If we didn’t think we could get through five Tests we wouldn’t be here. Yep, we’ve got some good experience, no doubt.” Experience may come with age but they are two  different things.

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