England may have batted for barely 15 overs at Edgbaston before the third one-day international was washed out on Wednesday, but that was time enough for Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson to remind them of his ability.
The abandonment left Australia 1-0 up with two to play in the five-match series ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Cardiff, with their 88-run win in Manchester falling between two rain-ruined no results in Leeds and now Birmingham.
However, of arguably greater significance than Wednesday’s raw result was left-arm paceman Johnson’s return of 1-20 in five overs which came as England slumped to 59-3 before rain stopped play.
Kevin Pietersen was Johnson’s prize scalp, the star batsman unable to get over the top of a short ball and lobbing a catch to square leg.
Johnson was also unlucky not to dismiss Jonathan Trott as a couple of close LBW decisions went against him.
Rather like the child in the nursery rhyme, when Johnson is good “he’s very, very good and when he’s bad he’s horrid,” with unplayable deliveries often mixed in with extravagant wides.
Australia wicketkeeper Matthew Wade is arguably better-placed than anyone else right now to assess Johnson’s bowling and said after stumps: “It’s quick — it’s one of the quickest I’ve probably kept to for a little while now.”
“His rhythm is amazing, but more importantly his accuracy is second to none at the moment,” Wade said. “He’s swinging the ball nicely, and hitting the stumps enough.”
“He was probably unlucky not to get Trott here,” he said. “He bowled really nicely to him ... one of our big things is to take early wickets, and Mitch is getting that done for us at the moment.”
“The bowlers that are going around currently, Mitch is certainly hitting the gloves as hard as any one of those,” Wade said.
Johnson has had to bear the brunt of jibes from England fans on account of his waywardness and was not selected for the recent Ashes defeat.
However, with several Australia fast bowlers currently sidelined by injury, Wade said it would be no surprise if Johnson were to add to his tally of 51 Tests come the Ashes opener in the return series “Down Under” in Brisbane in November.
“If you were picking the team tomorrow, I’m sure he’d be in it because we haven’t got a lot of fast bowlers that are available,” Wade said. “If he bowls like this, he’ll definitely be in the mix for the first Test come the Ashes for sure.”
England stand-in captain Eoin Morgan, leading the side in the absence of the Alastair Cook, is well aware of Johnson’s capabilities.
“We know when he bowls well, he’s pretty dangerous,” Morgan said.
However, the Irishman added: “We’ve played against him long enough to know that when he’s at his best he’s very, very good — but if he gets it wrong, he gives you enough scoring opportunities to capitalize.”