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Paceman Mitchell Johnson makes another mark on the Ashes

Associated Press
Nov 22, 2013 at 04:21pm IST

Brisbane: Mitchell Johnson left the Gabba three years ago clobbered for 170 runs without taking an England wicket in an Ashes performance that cost him his place in the Australia attack.

He left the same ground on Friday with a haul of 4 for 61 after some unnerving short-pitch bowling, helping to skittle England for 136 in their first innings of the Ashes series. After also contributing 64 with the bat in Australia's first innings of 295, he has proven to the doubters that he belongs in Test cricket.

The Barmy Army had some songs ready to sing if Johnson failed, as they did when he struggled in England on the 2009 tour, but he's kept them silent on the first two days in Brisbane.

Paceman Mitchell Johnson makes another mark on the Ashes

Johnson left the same ground on Friday with a haul of 4 for 61 after some unnerving short-pitch bowling.

Johnson spent time working on his action with fast bowling great Dennis Lillee in Perth after missing selection for the winter Ashes tour. And he got a few short, sharp reminders about the bowling plans from Australia pace coach Craig McDermott at the lunch interval on Friday after he strayed down legside a few too many times. It worked.

"We probably didn't start with the ball the way we would have liked," Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said. "Billy (McDermott) told the bowlers in no uncertain terms where he wanted things to be and we came back after the break and got out lengths right.

"Mitch has been bowling with some very good pace over the last few months," Haddin added, saying his pace was "outstanding" on Australia's recent limited-overs tour to India. "Today was just reward for the work he's put in.

"It's good to have him back. You always like to have a guy with Mitch's pace in your team. Any guy who can push the radar up near 150 Ks, no matter how well you're playing can make it uncomfortable for the opposition."

Ryan Harris removed England captain Alastair Cook with the total at 28, but the tourists appeared to be getting on top until Johnson dismissed Jonathan Trott just before lunch.

"That was a big momentum swing for us," Haddin said, playing down any suggestion that Johnson needed any kind of confidence boost. "I don't think he's had too many problems, he's a 200 Test wicket-taker. I'm comfortable with where Mitch is at."

He peppered Michael Carberry, England's top scorer with 40, with two short-pitched balls before getting him out bowling around the wicket, then picked up two more wickets as the tourists lost six for nine in a 58-ball slide.

Johnson, now 32, made his Test debut in 2007 against Sri Lanka and his raw pace always made life difficult for batsmen, but his wayward line and length sometimes made him too unreliable for selection.

After his Gabba failure in 2010, he was recalled because of team-mates' injuries for the third Ashes Test at the WACA, and unleashed spells of 6 for 38 and 3 for 44. He was Man of the Match, the only one Australia won, as he took only six more wickets in the series.

Despite that, he had 205 wickets in 51 Tests leading into this series, with Australia desperate to avoid a fourth consecutive Ashes defeat.

Former Australia captain Allan Border lobbied for Johnson's recall for the series, seeing a better technique and promise. On the eve of the match, Border publicly said the pacemen should be let loose to rattle England, and that's exactly what Johnson did.

Carberry was quick to credit Johnson, but also said he'd be more prepared next innings. "Mitchell is a world-class performer. He definitely in terms of pace he would be up there with some of the quickest I've faced in my time," Carberry said. "More importantly, he put the ball in the right area, which is also going to be tough for anyone.

"In our preparations for the game we knew what he was going to bring. We weren't quite up to it today, but tomorrow is a new day and we have another innings to prove ourselves and I'm pretty confident we will do that."

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