28 November 2012

Mitchell Johnson - the WACA specialist

*2013/14 Ashes fixtures added!
The likelihood of changes being made to the bowling unit ahead of the WACA Test is good.
The possibility of Mitchell Johnson making a return to bowl for the Baggy Greens is very good as well.
The general opinion surrounding this move? Seems to be hit and miss so let's look at the mix.

Ahead of the third Test the National Selection Panel made some changes to the side which will inevitably see a different squad walk out onto the field as the Baggy Greens and the Proteas battle it out for the final Test, having seen the Adelaide Oval Test turn into survival on a battleground for the Proteas.

John Hastings has been given a call to the side to potentially debut.
This season Hasto (who was in our 2011 World Cup Squad) has taken 22 Sheffield Shield wickets at 19.09, along with 200 runs in 6 innings as 33.33.
His bowling has seen two 5fers and he is nicely situated fifth spot on the bowling ranks for the season thus far.

A big benefit with Hasto is having that bloke who can bowl bursts of overs that can build pressure with ease and even cause more experienced batsmen to suffer lapses in concentration. Andrew McDonald fulfilled this role very well in 2008/09 and Shane Watson has done an exceptional job with the duty as well.

The other factor not to be forgotten is Hasto can provide useful lower order runs.
This should be important with James Pattinson out of the picture.

The other call to duty was Josh Hazlewood, a young gun I have kept an eye on as he has pushed on considerably since first being detected on the radar for most supporters as a member of the Australian u/19 World Cup Squad a few years back.

I won't question his skills but do find the selection call one based purely on potential rather than performance, which is not entirely justifiable when you see Jackson Bird (27 wickets at 20.55), Luke Butterworth (25 wickets at 17.72) and Ben Cutting (18 wickets at 21.33) putting in excellent performances. All three have done so with consistency at State level too.

Hazlewood has season stats of 9 wickets in 7 innings at 46.33.

Not figures I would warrant as credible for receiving a Baggy Green cap but the youngster is a talented bowler (hence his call to the side) and it's great to see players like him coming through the bowling ranks for the future.
If selected his performance in the moment would be the factor that gets the fans talking, not his prior performances or accolades.

Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus could do with the cover.
James Pattinson is out for the season after injury and Siddle and Hilfy will likely still feel the agony both physically and mentally after their efforts to win in Adelaide - one bowler down.

The impact fast bowling has on the body is intense but having been kept at bay by some outstanding discipline from the Proteas middle order, it makes it harder to recover both on the body and determination within the mind.

However, Pedro Siddle is a bloke whose ambition I have commented on more than once here and he will see it as unfinished business. Based on this I can see him taking the ball at the WACA. I hope he does and no doubt it will be a ferocious effort.

Hilfy should not be ruled out as last summer against India he pulled out 8 wickets at an average of 12.12 for the match, which was a huge contrast after a shocker at the venue in the 2010/11 Ashes.

The injury risk with Hilfy is far greater than that of Siddle so I would be expecting a replacement be brought in for Hilfy ahead of Siddle, but his input last season should not be forgotten, despite the Proteas being a stronger side than that of present India.

Shane Watson has been making good progress in the nets and is moving in the right direction to return to the side.

His bowling is the going to be the key ingredient as that slight magic he tends to bring was missing in the first two Tests of this series. It greatly aids Michael Clarke having a bowler of Watto's variation and adaptability up his sleeve - not to forget experience.

Clarke has also been open in preferring Watto for selection only on the basis that he can both bat and bowl. The last media report, from the skipper himself, strongly suggested Watto is ready to return as the leading all-rounder for the side. Very good news but we also need plenty of runs from him and starts being converted into something he knows all to well about.

Mitchell Starc is a bowler I am excited to see play against a top side at the venue.

He has been in sensational form within the limited overs versions and has done so at both State and International level giving good indication that he is in a good place.

Test cricket is a different animal and Starc's input cannot be underestimated and the importance as a tall, left arm seamer ought to be something he should be aware of.

Due to injury has had limited appearance this summer which should raise caution for selection in a format he has only represented Australia in four times, but the two games played for New South Wales brought him 7 wickets at 22.00.

This brings me to the man who has become a WACA specialist.

He has had a dreadful fall from great heights after being named ICC Cricket of the Year in 2008/09.
However, Mitchell Johnson has used the back seat as an opportunity to focus on what is ahead and just work his way through the system with the Western Warriors and is now cruising again in control.

This season Mitchy has taken 17 wickets at 29.00.

Of the five matches played in three of these Sheffield games have been at the WACA.
Of the games at the WACA he has taken 13 wickets which would once again suggest good reason for the selectors seeing confidence in his recall to the side for an opportunity.

Mitchy's WACA stats for Australia in Test cricket stand as follows:

4 matches, 160.1 overs sent down, 30 wickets (15.78% of his career wickets) at 18.31, two five wickets hauls and a 10 wicket haul for the match.

Those statistics and memories associated shout out performances creditted as totally awesome!
The last time Mitchy bowled at the Proteas was mesmerising and if you didn't witness it all I can say is what a pity!

He was brutal and I was glad to be sitting in my living room and not standing with the bat in hand.
He was at the top of his game, unplayable, fast and deadly accurate!

Mitchy walked away from that game with 11 wickets and a best innings effort at 8/61.

The game will be remembered as a record run chase loss to the Proteas but that effort from Mitch is still strong within my memories.
Furthering that was the lonely victory in the 2010/11 Ashes series where Mitch struck back at critics to take 9 wickets for the Test with best innings figures of 6/38.

History seldom repeats itself but in the instance of Mitchy at the WACA this was certainly the case come the Ashes but we need the input again. It would also do his reputation the world of good having found himself somewhat of an outcast to the cricketing world.

There is always a gamble taken with Mitchy in a side as you never know what you will get on the day. With further use of Mitch is limited overs cricket it seemed to allow for a limitation between his best and worse, whereas the harsh nature of Test cricket does not allow for this.

Fortune and luck play a big part though in the game, as we have seen plenty evidence this series.

If Mitchell goes out onto that ground with total confidence and a new captain to utilise his abilities (Michael Clarke has never captained Mitchell Johnson in a Test) it could definitely see fortune go both our way, and his way.

A few of the Proteas players won't have forgotten that spell at the WACA and another that followed shortly after at Kingsmead, Durban. Notably Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith.

Hopefully a few more battlescars and mental wounds can be inflicted when the red ball is taken.

Australian Squad for the WACA clash:Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
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Anonymous said...

For good or bad, Johnson will play at the WACA. It's West Australian law.

Anonymous said...

It shows bravery and sensibility by the aussie selectors to pick Johnson, cricket at the top level is increasingly becoming a squad game, and this is a horses for courses pick in a one off match and could very well come off.
Also what of the weather, hearing it's being very unseasonal.

Looking forward to this match, and being in the west it's at a much friendlier time for us English!!

Sylvester said...

As long as we don't use what he does at Perth as a reason to keep him for another year then no problem at all. Hopefully Starc, Haze/Hastings perform and as a result take out the need to pick Johnson for the SL series.