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South Africans just can't handle Mitchell Johnson

In the first innings, Mitchell Johnson bowled at an average of 143.9km/h and a peak of 150.6km/h

In the first innings, Mitchell Johnson bowled at an average of 143.9km/h and a peak of 150.6km/h Photo: AFP

Alex Doolan could hardly be less brash than the teammate he shared a double-century partnership with at the weekend, David Warner. But when asked of his response to South Africa captain Graeme Smith's claim the Centurion Park pitch was the primary cause of Mitch Johnson's 12-wicket haul the Tasmanian is respectful but direct.

''Both attacks got to bowl on it,'' Doolan responded. ''Whether it was the pitch conditions or not, I think Mitch bowled superbly well. He did what he has been doing for the past six months in Australia in our summer and he also did it in India in the one-day series …

''You have to give full credit to Mitch for the way he bowled and the way he went about it.''

Morne Morkel was the fastest of the South African bowlers in the first Test.

Morne Morkel was the fastest of the South African bowlers in the first Test. Photo: AFP

One of the key reasons behind Australia's 281-run mauling of South Africa is that its batsmen were able to handle the home team's chief pace threats, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, far better than the Proteas handled Johnson.

Johnson's career-best figures of 12-127 came on a pitch where Australia batted first and scored 397 and 4-290 declared.

The consistent struggles of all but AB de Villiers and, to a lesser extent, Hashim Amla among the South Africans to face Johnson suggested the left-armer had to have been bowling decisively faster than the other five specialist seamers in the match.

Mitchell Johnson's bowling.

Mitchell Johnson's bowling.

The results, however, indicated that for pace alone there was little between Johnson and Morkel.

In the first innings Johnson bowled at an average of 143.9km/h and a peak of 150.6km/h, with Morkel at an average of 143.6km/h and a peak of 149.5km/h.

The fast delivery for that innings actually came from Australia's Ryan Harris with 151.4km/h.

In the second innings the supremely fit Johnson edged ahead, with a 2km/h buffer for average over his lanky South African rival and a 4.5km/h buffer for peak pace.

While the gap in pace between the two was small the gap between how long the opposition batsmen could survive against them was significant.

Johnson bowled just over 33 overs for the match. In the first innings the only batsmen to survive the equivalent of two overs against him were de Villiers and Robin Peterson, who respectively faced 50 and 14 deliveries. De Villiers' performance was particularly impressive, scoring 40 runs from those 50 deliveries.

In the second innings the only South African to pass that threshold was Amla with 40 balls, the first of which hit his helmet.

By contrast, three Australian batsmen - Shaun Marsh (60 balls), Steve Smith (41), Harris (14) - faced more than two overs from Morkel in the first innings, as did Warner (28) and Doolan (26) in the second. Even more survived against Proteas pace leader Steyn: Marsh (66), Smith (40) and Doolan (15) in the first and Doolan (37), Warner (19) and Marsh (18) in the second.

Half of South Africa's specialist batsmen were dismissed by Johnson in each innings, with only de Villiers (62 balls) and Amla (43) able to face more than three overs against him for the match. Amla was the only South African specialist batsman not to fall to Johnson across the match.

Smith and Faf du Plessis between them faced Johnson for only 10 balls in the match.

In the first innings Johnson, according to the Hawk-Eye beehive that maps the height of deliveries, claimed four wickets from deliveries at shoulder height or above. Just as significant the South African batsmen were, between them, only able to play one scoring shot to the deliveries.

Doolan doubted the South African batsmen genuinely feared Johnson. But he confirmed he had never seen bowling as fast and as hostile as Johnson delivered in Centurion.

''I certainly haven't. It can be a little bit frightening and intimidating for me, standing at bat-pad,'' Doolan said. ''I'm not sure how the batsmen are feeling, but it really is something else, watching the ball go past at that speed.''

12 comments so far

  • Meanwhile in NZ we almost won 4 matches in a row (but chickened out).

    Commenter
    bray
    Location
    dorkland
    Date and time
    February 18, 2014, 3:01PM
    • Um, what? Lost in translation. Pauline wants a "Please explain"

      Commenter
      JH
      Location
      Briz
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 2:08AM
  • As much as Graham Smith is going on how it was the pitch that was the factor for Mitch's bowling. Please Graham dont blame the pitch its more like your blunder when you won the toss and elected to bowl first.

    Commenter
    Andrew
    Date and time
    February 18, 2014, 3:44PM
    • Well he's been taking the wickets of South Africans for months now........

      Commenter
      Howzat
      Date and time
      February 18, 2014, 4:42PM
      • Classic but true. Started on the Saffas B team otherwise known as England.

        Commenter
        Armchair Selector
        Date and time
        February 18, 2014, 6:37PM
      • Really? Are there players born in South Africa playing for England? I'd never have noticed if it wasn't repeated by the plebs like a bad Simpsons joke every 2 seconds.

        Commenter
        Phat
        Date and time
        February 19, 2014, 12:01PM
      • And that remark Howzat, like a menacing inswinger from Mitch, is a great delivery!
        Saffa B-Team spanked 5-0, Saffa A-Team already 1-0 down....wonder where the "Poms" are gonna source their next batch of players from....judging by the Kiwi's performance against India, I'd be worried New Zulund, be very concerned.

        Commenter
        Legandos
        Location
        Perth
        Date and time
        February 19, 2014, 4:27PM
    • I guess this means Johnson and Co will have to try harder in the 2nd test to prove it isnt the pitch. If you run, Smithy, the poms might have a slot for you in their team then you can say your growing number of low scores is due to you just being 'bored' or 'disinterested'.

      Commenter
      Hansie's Flying School
      Location
      Mountain Side
      Date and time
      February 18, 2014, 6:49PM
      • Q: What goes through a South African batsman's head when he's facing Mitchell Johnson?
        A: The ball.

        Commenter
        Armchair Warrior
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        February 18, 2014, 9:16PM
        • Gee, Graeme Smith comes out looking stupid. MJ is a once in a generation bowler - fine tuned by one of the absolute all time greats, Denis Lillee. I cannot see why he will not continue in the next 2 SA tests as he did ion Oz against England. And he will humiliate Smith et al two more times.

          Lets hope Lillee will coach Cummins et al in the same manner. Not that Cummins et al are built like DK and MJ. Surely their supreme athleticism makes a difference ?

          Commenter
          Tony L
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          February 18, 2014, 10:09PM

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