I have previously noted on this blog that I was mildly concerned that the form line of Mitchell Johnson coming out of the Ashes might have been slightly inflated by the bad form of the English. If I needed any convincing that I was wrong in that view all it took was two balls to Graeme Smith last night.
Johnson’s resurrection as a force with the red ball has its genesis in one concept: speed. I would never suggest that a test match standard batsman would ever be scared of a bowler but each of the South Africa batters, to a man, looked rushed and without answers to Johnson’s searing pace. You will wait some time to see a better fast bowler’s wicket than that which removed Faf du Plessis: he was just beaten for pace plain and simple.
I have been one of a number who have been on the fringes of the hyperbole surrounding Johnson’s performances. I have heard Mark Nicholas et al wax lyrical about his performances and whilst I am not a bandwagoner I am prepared to now admit that he is presently at the top of the tree when it comes to fast bowlers the world around. Sitting next to him is Dale Steyn, albeit if Johnson’s performances continue on the trajectory they are on now (after all he has now destroyed the batting order of the best team in the world) he will hold that position at the top on his own.
Batters the world over will have to find a way to match or combat Johnson’s pace. If they do not do so then this continuing carousel of wickets falling when Johnson bowls will not be ending any time in the future.