has Mitchell Johnson won Australia the Ashes?

Date: December 8, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

It may a big call but in three innings this summer Mitchell Johnson may have decided the outcome of this Ashes series.

An oft maligned player, his recall to the Australian team has provided skipper Michael Clarke with a strike weapon who has rattled the tourists.

Even the naysayers must be now be appreciating the way he has ignited his team this series.

At the Gabba, and now at Adelaide, his raw pace allied with a new found rhythm and control has seen him cut a swathe through England’s batting.

In the opening Test he won the man-of-the-match award on the back of hauls of 4-61 and 5-42.

Some said it could be a flash in the pan given he would be confronted by a deadpan surface at Adelaide.

That has proved to be an ill thought out theory as his effort in England’s first innings outdid his dual performances at Brisbane.

After the hosts showed the benign nature of the new drop-in pitch, declaring at 9-570, Johnson further ignited the Aussies with a thunderbolt that cannoned into Alastair Cook’s off-stump to remove the England skipper for three late on day two.

Almost from ball one he was hitting 150km/h – he maxed out with one short ball that clocked 152.8km/h.

That is genuine ‘heat’, as they now refer to it.

On day three he literally had England on the hop.

In one of the most devastating fast-bowling spells in Ashes history he ripped apart England’s first innings with 5-16 in the space of five overs immediately after lunch.

From 4-117, England was reduced to 9-135 as Johnson’s blood curdling bowling wreaked havoc.

Debutant Ben Stokes was trapped in front for one.

In the same over the hapless Matthew Prior fell second ball for a duck.

For Stuart Broad it was even worse as he was bowled first ball leg stump by a full and fast delivery that bowled him behind his legs as he exposed his stumps looking to work to the on-side.

It was the last ball of a triple-wicket maiden that left the powerfully left-armer on a hat-trick.

He couldn’t convert but not long after he had another chance to join a select group of Test bowlers when he had Graeme Swann brilliantly caught by Clarke at second slip and James Anderson clean bowled with consecutive deliveries.

Again, he missed out on three-in-three and was soon spelled.

After Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon were held up by Ian Bell – who finished unconquered on 72 – and a stoic number 11 in Monty Panesar he was again thrown the ball to mop up the innings.

With his second ball back at the bowling crease he saw an inside edge from Panesar cannon back into the stumps.

England was all out for 172, a deficit of 398 runs.

Johnson left the newly revamped Adelaide Oval to a standing ovation and a kiss of the coat of arms on his baggy green, having returned figures of 17.2-8-40-7.

Added to his haul in the opening Test, his first three innings since being recalled have produced 16 wickets at the astonishing average of 8.9.

Equally as important as the raw figures is the psychological scarring that he has wrought on England’s batting line-up.

With Cook’s men seemingly on a hiding to nothing in this Test, they know there will be no respite at all with the next encounter to be played on Johnson’s home ground – and favourite Test venue – the WACA Ground.

In previous Tests at the iconic fast bowling paradise he has produced innings figures of 8-61 against South Africa and 6-38 against England during the last Ashes series down under.

Across five Tests at Perth he has captured 36 wickets at 19.7.

Next week he is destined to substantially add to that impressive record as England has been completely rattled by Johnson’s raw-boned pace.

Today, they followed each other back to the dressing rooms like lemmings.

Johnson has been the prime mover in ripping to shreds England’s innings this summer.

In three innings this series England has been lamentable with scores of 136, 179 and 172, which represents an average partnership thus far of a ridiculous 16.2!

This from a side that arrived on our shores having not lost a Test match in 14 starts and aiming for a fourth consecutive Ashes series victory.

That dream has rapidly turned into a nightmare of horrific proportions.

It is hard to see how England can fight its way out of the dilemma it faces.

A loss in Adelaide is a short odds-on favourite while the prospect of victory at the WACA appears equally as unlikely.

The teams may leave Perth with Australia leading 3-nil with two to play.

It is hard to imagine that will not be the case.

Johnson has got into the minds of the England team and there may be no way back.

The man who was up until this summer lambasted by the Barmy Army’s chants has had the last laugh.

During his first innings rampage today he went past Clarrie Grimmett (216) and into tenth spot on the all-time list of Australia’s Test wicket-takers.

He now has 221 scalps at 29.3 and appears at the peak of his form.

With maturity has come a greater sense of belief in his abilities and the external focus of parenthood seems to have broadened his horizons and relaxed his oft doubting mind.

At 32 years of age he looks destined to wreak further havoc as he heads towards 300 Test wickets.

From a man who not long ago seemed down and out as a Test bowler his return from exile has been nothing short of breath taking.

England’s batsmen can certainly attest to that.

In less than a fortnight he may well be the man most responsible for Australia reclaiming the Ashes, and with it, producing one of the more significant upsets in the history of the little urn.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 7 December 2013