Menacing ‘Mo’ Johnson Wants More

Image courtesy of bcci.tv
Australia is set to continue on its winning ways in the 2nd Test against South Africa. Image courtesy of bcci.tv

On a pace-friendly wicket at Centurian Park, Mitchell Johnson finished the first Test with a career-best haul of 12/127 as Australia crushed South Africa by 281 runs. The ‘moustached-menace’ consistently bowled above 150km/h, but the left-hander wasn’t throwing down the red ball all that much quicker than his team mates Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle or the much-heralded home attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. It was the venom and consistency which had the opposition batters ducking and weaving. Bring on Port Elizabeth!

Aside from AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla to a lesser extent, the South Africans offered little resistance. On the other hand, the Aussie batters were sent in on a wicket helpful for the speedsters only to handle Test cricket’s number one rated attack professionally, making scores of 397 and 4/290 declared. But as always, beware of wounded Proteas. Battered physically and mentally, they are capable of bouncing back hard. South Africa overcame a sluggish start to defeat Australia (1-0) in 2012. After a draw at the Gabba and hanging on grimly in Adelaide, they pummelled a weakened Aussie attack at the WACA, where Faf du Plessis , Amla and de Villiers did most of the damage.

The good news for Australia, Johnson wasn’t over-taxed. The 32-year-old bowled just 33 overs in four days and should be relatively fresh coming into Port Elizabeth. Interestingly enough, Johnson's first test victims included captain Graeme Smith and fellow opener Alviro Peterson twice, keeper/batsman AB de Villiers twice and all-rounder Ryan McLaren  twice. McLaren has been ruled out of this game after suffering concussion thanks to being hit by a Johnson thunderbolt. The ‘Menacing Mo’ is currently the most destructive bowler in world cricket and the number one ranked test team needs to regroup to resurrect the series. Before this series, the Proteas had won 20, drawn seven and lost just four Tests in 31 outings.

Australia has won three of the five Tests between the two nations played at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, dating back to 1950. In the most recent (March, 1997), the Aussies got home by two wickets, despite being bowled out in the first innings for 108, their second-lowest completed Test dig against South Africa. The Proteas won their last Test outing at St George’s Park by an innings and 193 runs over New Zealand. Amla, du Plessis and Dean Elgar made centuries in a massive 8/525 declared, while Steyn finished with match figures of 8/65.

Australian selectors are unlikely to tinker with the winning combination from the series opener, even if all-rounder Shane Watson proves he’s recovered from a calf injury. In Watson’s absence, Alex Doolan made 27 and 89 on debut, Shaun Marsh 148 and 44 in his return to test cricket, and Steve Smith a first innings century batting at six. Watson’s only hope would be if selectors gamble on him as an opener and dump veteran Chris Rogers , who failed in both digs.

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