The familiar figure stood at the top of his mark. Moustache bristling with the ball in his left hand. He lent into the slight breeze and began his run-up. His left wrist cocked to his shoulder as his body turned side on. His right arm led his body through the crease as the left arm slung forward.
The ball appeared out of the tattooed left arm, the batsman, Graeme Smith, bat at the ready, lost the flight of the delivery and despairingly ducked in self preservation, popping a catch to Shaun Marsh.
Just like the English had found out, the South Africans were completely unprepared for the new and improved Mitchell Johnson. His rearing deliveries had the batsmen on the back-foot simply trying to survive.
Hashim Amla felt the brute force of one of Johnson’s deliveries win it cannoned into the usually unflustered Amla’s grill. But the damage was yet to be done, another bouncer, this time to Ryan McLaren, drew blood.
Mitchell Johnson was once again the X-factor that separated Australia and South Africa.
The South Africans entered the series with the one and two ranked fast bowlers in the world, they looked pedestrian to the fired up Aussie. Even Morne Morkel who can extract bounce from the most benign of pitches was played with relative ease by the Australian batsmen.
Mitchell Johnson sent panic through the English camp in the recent Ashes series and South Africa have since decided to poke a bear with a sharp stick.
Graeme Smith said that it was the pitch that greatly assisted Johnson. If Smith was unsure as to how fast Johnson could bowl he’ll surely find out in Port Elizabeth. It seems the South African captain didn’t pay much attention to the Ashes given Mitch performed best on the slower Adelaide deck.
If the Centurion pitch assisted Johnson so greatly why wasn’t Smith’s “World’s greatest pace attack” able to bully the Australian batsmen?
Only AB deVilliers played with relative comfort for the South Africans but he too was dismissed by Johnson in both innings.
The re-birth of the pace-man has shown what an effect genuine pace has on the opposition. The skidding bounce and aggression surprised the South Africans who, like the English, were unable to counteract it.
I would question the wisdom in saying that it wasn’t Johnson who beat them, it was the pitch. For any fast bowler to be dis-respected like that is asking for trouble, to do it to the most damaging bowler in the world at the moment is surely asking for another onslaught.
Of course us Australians would encourage Smith to antagonise Johnson even more, he’s the one who’ll have to back up his words on the pitch.