Ashes 2013-14: The Aussie Angle - Mitchell Johnson provides one of the few positives

 

Brisbane

The late coming of Mitchell Johnson – with the bat – has papered over the thick cracks that still race in all directions through the Australian top order.

Chris Rogers may have received a brute of a lifter from Stuart Broad at the Gabba but David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and George Bailey were each culpable in their own demise with strokes that were either misconceived or prompted by the build-up of England pressure.

Yet Johnson's muscular contribution with bat in hand, alongside the equally valuable effort of a 36-year-old Brad Haddin who played with the freedom of a man half his age, augers well for Australia's bowling prospects.

When Johnson bats well, he invariably has a potent impact with the ball.

He is an unusual all-rounder for whom the absence of success in one discipline does not inspire it in the other; rather, he feeds of the energy of success in either field.

"In the past when I haven't batted well I might have been a bit tense and thought I had to go out and blast teams away but that has all changed," he revealed after his 60 helped Australia to a competitive first day 8-273.

"I have been saying for the past 12 months that my confidence and belief is back in my cricket.

"Batting well definitely helps, especially this morning when I rocked up and the nerves started kicking in with the big crowd and the national anthem.

"It was quite nerve-wracking this morning, especially before the toss, but once we batted I got the nerves out of the system.

"Hopefully it will turn into a good bowling performance."

He appears to be nothing like the wan individual of 2009 who was so badly affected by Barmy Army sledging or the confused and angry man of 2010-11 who could not comprehend whether he was the team's best and most important bowler or an occasional contributor who only played when there was a brief alignment between the selectors' thoughts and adverse health and well-being reports on the other candidates.

Johnson's 60 in the first Test was the ninth time in the left-armer's career that he had reached a half-century.

The synergy of success with bat and ball is apparent from his record of only once failing to pair a score of 50 or more with a match haul of at least four wickets.

And in a career marked by Himalayan peaks and troughs, there could not be a clearer indication that Johnson's best form comes from confidence and clarity of mind than from any particular technical issue.

Johnson was a match-winner in the Ashes Test at the WACA three years ago when he demolished England with returns of 6-38 and 3-44.

But recall that his brittle self-belief was strengthened by a blazing 62 in Australia's first innings.

Then there was his maiden century, an undefeated 123 against South Africa in a losing cause at Newlands but one inspired by his four wicket haul the previous day.

Two weeks earlier he had run out of partners as he neared three figures at The Wanderers but barely needed any support over the next few days as he scythed through the Proteas in both innings.

The most brutal example of Johnson's equilibrium being best served by bat and ball operating in tandem came at the MCG last year.

Unbeaten on 92 when the last man fell in Australia's first innings, he broke stumps and several Sri Lankan bones during a ferocious display that set up the rout.

There are signs that the same Johnson is back this summer.

He is content in his life, with the presence of his first born providing a focus in his family beyond cricket and its regular disappointments, while he is as strong and fit as he has ever been.

In an Australian team where Johnson is by no means the only player nervous when the top order walk out to the middle, his brief success with the blade has provided not only hope for the attack but valuable ballast in the batting order.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015