Johnson ready to keep talking the talk

Mitchell Johnson is prepared to keep on unleashing a few verbal bouncers as well as some physical ones if it helps maintain his Ashes revival.

updated: August 11, 2009 06:33 IST
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Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson is prepared to keep on unleashing a few verbal bouncers as well as some physical ones if it helps maintain his Ashes revival.

Left-arm quick Johnson arrived in England with a stellar reputation after playing a key role in Australia's victorious tour of South Africa this year.

But he struggled to live up to the hype and suffered the embarrassment of barely being able to land the ball on the cut strip at times during England's second Test victory at Lord's.

However, his return of five wickets for 69 runs helped Australia win the fourth Test at Headingley here on Sunday as they thrashed England by an innings and 80 runs inside three days to level the Ashes at 1-1 ahead of next week's series finale at the Oval.

There were times in this series when Johnson, who on Monday candidly admitted to mental fragility, looked anything but an aggressive fast bowler.

But at Headingley several bouts of "sledging" with England all-rounder Stuart Broad and tailender James Anderson geed him up.

It is not something that comes easily to the mild-mannered Johnson but the 27-year-old, speaking to reporters at Australia's hotel, said he would stick with it.

"It did help me get up, puff the chest out a bit. I don't normally say too much. Maybe it was a bit of a surprise to those guys for me to say something. It felt good to do it and I'll continue to do it."

Reflecting on his early struggles this tour, Johnson added: "It was more of a mental thing for me. Definitely, the head dropped the first few Tests and I was not getting in the contest.

"At Lord's, I didn't really know where they were going to be honest.

"And copping it from an English crowd, I probably didn't know how to deal with it at the time. It's probably the most I've copped.

"I've definitely learnt from that," Johnson, who now has 16 wickets this series, four more than any England bowler, said.

When bowling coach Troy Cooley, a member of England's backroom staff during their victorious 2005 Ashes series win, returned home to perform a similar role with Ricky Ponting's attack it was seen as a coup for Australia.

But Johnson, while thanking Cooley for his support, said it was advice from Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke which helped banish his technical blues and led to an improved display in the drawn third Test at Edgbaston.

"During that Lord's Test, I can remember pretty clearly I was thinking about wrist position, front-arm pull down, I was thinking about running in, everything I could," Johnson recalled.

"Edgbaston was totally different. I just ran in, didn't worry about it.

"Michael Clarke said to me in the practice game (against Northamptonshire) 'just run in and bowl fast mate, that's what you do best'.

"That's what I've been trying to do, run in, hit my areas and not worry about technical stuff on the field. That's for the nets."

Before the third Test, former Australia captain Allan Border called for Johnson to be dropped and the bowler admitted he had feared being left out.

"It was in the back of my mind, obviously. You are not going well and that was one of the things that probably popped up into my mind as well."

But Australia captain Ricky Ponting persevered with the paceman albeit in a new role of first, or sometimes even second, change.

"I was trying to swing the new ball and it probably didn't swing that much for both sides apart from this Test," Johnson said. "So I definitely felt a lot of pressure there trying to swing the ball and get it a little bit fuller.

"I'm generally someone who likes to dig it in there a bit more , hit back of a length, somewhere around there.

"Getting first-change has probably helped me a lot."

Johnson has also had to deal with the fall-out from a public spat between his mother and his fiancee.

"I haven't been in this situation before," he admitted. "But personal things like that don't affect me when I go out on the pitch. Once I step out on that field, it's all dead and buried."

That certainly seemed to be the case at Headingley where Johnson's maiden five-wicket Ashes haul ended the match when he bowled Graham Onions.

"It's good to bowl the ball where you want it," Johnson said. "I definitely have a lot more confidence and am just enjoying it a lot more now."

Headingley also saw Australia recall Stuart Clark, a more accurate if less hostile pace bowler than Johnson or Peter Siddle.

"Me and Peter Siddle bowl very similarly in some ways...I guess having Stuart Clark there, it does complement our bowling.

"It's good to have someone who can just put in on the spot for you."