Home > industry > Lethal Mitchell: Five bowling spells that defined Mitchell Johnson’s career

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson on Tuesday announced his retirement from international and first class cricket. In a statement just ahead of the fifth day of the ongoing test match against New Zealand at Perth, Johnson said, “I feel now is the best time to say goodbye." He added, “It’s been an incredible ride. But the ride has to come to an end at some point and to do so here at the WACA is very special."

Johnson endured a rather torrid time in the first innings of his final test, picking up just one wicket for 157 runs off 28 overs. That wicket took his tally to 311 Test wickets, one more than fellow Aussie paceman Brett Lee. Johnson will also finish his career as the fourth highest Australian wicket-taker in Test matches, behind Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee.

He joins a list of Australian cricketers, including former captain Michael Clarke, paceman Ryan Harris, wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin, all-rounder Shane Watson and opener Chris Rogers who have all retired from test cricket this year.

Johnson leaves international cricket as one of the most feared fast-bowlers of this generation with his sharp, pacey bouncer accounting for many top test batsman. Here are five spells that defined Johnson’s Test career.

4/30 and 5/39 vs New Zealand at Brisbane, 2008

Soon after he made his Test debut against Sri Lanka in 2007/08, Johnson announced himself with a stellar performance against trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in Brisbane . Australia, who were put into bat first, managed only 214, thanks to Tim Southee’s four-wicket haul. Johnson, who bowled second change after Lee, Stuart Clark and Shane Watson picked the wicket of dangerous Brendon McCullum for 8, before polishing the Kiwi tail to end with 4/30. Australia piled on the runs in their second essay, with Simon Katich leading the way, and in the process, extended their lead to 326 runs. With a stiff target to defend, Johnson, the first-change bowler made his impact, with regular breakthroughs that broke the Kiwi chase right from the start. Australia won the test to take a 1-0 lead in the series andJohnson was named man of the match. His five-wicket haul (5/39) in the second innings was his first in Test cricket.

8/61 vs South Africa at Perth, 2008

This will probably go down as one of Johnson’s best spells early on in his career. A month after Australia won the Brisbane test against the Kiwis, Johnson was at it again, this time against the touring South Africans. Australia batted first and piled on 375 in their first innings. On the evening of the second day Johnson produced a spell that many have come to describe as heroic. In just 21 balls, Johnson ripped apart the South African batting order, picking five wickets for two runs. The visitors, coasting at 234/4 were reduced to 241/8, before they were ultimately dismissed for 281. South Africa’s batsmen, particularly Jean-Paul Duminy, would put in a spectacular performance in the second innings to chase down a mighty target of 414 to win the match for the visitors. It may have been a losing cause, but Johnson left the game with his reputation enhanced.

4/25 and 4/112 vs South Africa at Johannesburg, 2009

It was during the tour to South Africa, not much after his Test debut, that Johnson became Australia’s lead paceman. And in the first Test in Johannesburg, Johnson was at his menacing best, interestingly, as an all-rounder. Batting at number 10, Johnson scored an unbeaten 96 in the first innings to propel Australia to a first innings score of 466. In reply, South Africa could only manage a mere 221, largely thanks to Johnson’s four wicket haul, which included Graeme Smith, Duminy, Mark Boucher and Makhaya Ntini. He finished with figures of 4/25. With a sizeable lead in the pocket, Australia extended their lead in the second innings, adding a further 207 runs and in the process, set a formidable 454 run target for the hosts. Johnson responded again, picking regular, well-timed and important wickets to lead his side to a 162 run win. Johnson, for his all-round effort, was named man of the match. That test also saw the late Phil Hughes make his debut for Australia.

4/61 and 5/42 vs England at Brisbane, 2013

After Johnson’s career saw a dip in fortunes, where he was repeatedly mocked by English fans with the now famous “He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right..." chant, the Ashes of 2013 couldn’t have come at a better time for the left-arm paceman. His spell in the first Test at the Gabba, set the tone for the series, and indeed, the revival of his career. With the Aussies bowled out for 295 in the first innings, Johnson and Harris, had a task on hand. England were in all kinds of trouble, a middle-order collapse leaving them at 91/8 and were eventually, bundled out for 136. Johnson troubled and tormented the English, before picking up 4/61 in the first innings. But more was to follow, after Australia set the visitors a steep 561-run target. Johnson, with a hostile spell of fast bowling, blew England apart, with short-pitch deliveries that ended up in the hands of the deep fielders. He finished the innings with 5/42, helping Australia to a whopping 381-run win over their arch rivals.

Johnson was now a transformed man, feared and not mocked. In the five-match Test series, Johnson finished with 37 English scalps, including a 7-wicket haul in the Adelaide Test.

7/68 and 5/59 vs South Africa at Centurion, 2014

After his heroics in the Ashes a few months earlier, an in-form Mitchell Johnson was in full flow, with the series against South Africa billed as a showdown between him and Dale Steyn. In the first test of that series, Johnson had maximum impact, clinching 12 wickets that led Australia to victory at Centurion. In the first innings, he blew apart South Africa’s top-order, reducing them to 110/5. They never recovered from that position, and could only manage 206 runs as Johnson picked up 7/68 in the first. In the second innings, as South Africa were thrown an improbable 482-run target, Johnson was the wrecker-in-chief again, accounting for four of the top six wickets. He finished with 5/59 in the second innings. This was Johnson’s moment. Six matches, 49 wickets since “that day" at Adelaide.

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