'Banana bender' dons his Superman cape in hosts' one-man show

The Australian angle

It was the day Test cricket regained its reputation as a ruthless struggle for supremacy.

It was the day the series came back to life. It was the day Australia rejected the meek in favour of the mongrel. Most of all, it was the day a tall, fragile and hitherto wayward speedster convinced England that he was no mere myth.

Like all the best storms Mitchell Johnson's burst came virtually without warning. Certainly, a few promising signs had been observed. On the previous day the "banana bender" had scored 60. As a rule his batting moves in harmony with his flinging. Clearly, he was feeling good about his bowling and therefore himself.

At his best Johnson has a scything action and sends the ball down from a hand reaching towards the heavens. At his worst his arm almost collides with the umpire's ear and the ball follows an erratic path. On the first evening he produced a hint of inswing rather as a recipe might require a hint of basil.

When play resumed Australia's already shaky position rapidly deteriorated. Supporters despaired as an edge flashed between keeper and slip. None of the bowlers looked dangerous and the visitors advanced confidently to 78 without loss.

Australia urgently needed something special from its most frustrating and potent operator. Before the match it was obvious that Ricky Ponting and Johnson carried the hopes of the side. The captain had fought hard and it took a stunning catch to remove him. It was up to Johnson to respond. It was time for Clark Kent to put on his uniform.

Hitherto England had formed an understandably low opinion of the lefty. All too often he had been gobbled up. Certainly, he had failed to take charge of his patch of ground in the manner of the true competitor. Even advocates were aghast at his inconsistency. It's hard to think of any other experienced competitor in any sport capable of flying so high and sinking so low and with so little in between.

From the moment the Queenslander took the ball he looked fluent, streaming to the crease with the smoothness of a 400-metre runner. Still, he needed the fillip of a wicket. Alastair Cook had been England's immovable object. What about him?

And it happened. Johnson pitched the ball up, swerved it a fraction and drew a drive from the tall left-hander that lacked the precision of his best work. Michael Hussey took the catch at gully and the hosts felt hope stir in their souls. Johnson held up his arm. He sensed it was a beginning, not an end.

Relieved that his work in the nets had been rewarded, the paceman now approached the crease confidently and hurled the ball down with conviction. Jonathan Trott immediately felt his wrath as the bottled rage suddenly found its outlet.

Johnson surged in again and sent down a delivery as sinuous and slithery and spitting as a snake. Trott shuffled across his crease and too late realised that the ball was changing course. The swinger thundered into his pads and Australia celebrated.

Suddenly the match was wide open. England had not seen the attack coming. Kevin Pietersen took guard, another batsman in superb form, another tormentor from the first two Tests. He lasted a single ball. Again the speedster surged in, sent down a singeing swinger and shouted as Pietersen was beaten by pace and movement. The champion batsman trudged off, a Lamborghini reduced to a Skoda.

It had been an astonishing transformation. Previously incompetent and scarcely worth his place, Johnson was irresistible. Australia's strategy of withdrawing him from the front line and nursing him through his troubles had proved correct. In hindsight it was a bold move, taken in full knowledge of the backlash it was bound to provoke.

Thanks to their enigmatic speedster Australia secured a sizeable lead. Ian Bell produced another superbly crafted innings that reinforced impressions that he plays the ball later and has the soundest technique of any batsman in the series. But he stood alone.

Appropriately, Johnson took the last wicket. Australia's top order failed again and England clawed their way back into the match. But ultimately it had been a one-man show.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory