For someone who has experienced the dizziest of heights and endured the bleakest of lows in a topsy-turvy career, Mitchell Johnson’s ability to torture England for a second straight Ashes test propelled the paceman to a higher plain on Saturday.
Man-of-the-match in the opening win in Brisbane with nine wickets and a half-century, Johnson completed a stunning seven-wicket haul at the Adelaide Oval on day three to rout England’s batsmen for 172 in their first innings and put Australia within reach of an improbable 2-0 lead in the five-test series.
The withering spell of pace bowling started late on Friday, bowling England captain Alastair Cook for three and ended just before tea on Saturday when he bowled Monty Panesar for two to enter Australia’s top 10 test wicket-takers.
In between, Johnson re-arranged the stumps of Stuart Broad and James Anderson for ducks, had Matt Prior and Graeme Swann caught behind and Ben Stokes dismissed cheaply leg before wicket. Three of the wickets fell in a single over after lunch without a run scored and two hat-tricks went begging on a glorious day for the home side at Adelaide Oval.
Away from the bouncy Gabba wicket, some had expected Johnson to struggle in Adelaide, mindful of the bowler’s history of following up wrecking ball performances with almost comical efforts of waywardness in subsequent matches.
But Johnson on Saturday gave a glimpse of a tantalising future where adjectives like ‘wayward’ and ‘enigmatic’ would have no place ahead of his name.
“To be able to back up a performance like in Brisbane and to do it here it’s a really nice feeling for me,” Johnson told reporters, stroking the moustache he grew for charity.
“I guess there’s been talk in the past where I can have those performances where I can blow a team away and in the next one not turn up, so for me I think that’s why it was a bit more emotional and special. It was because I was able to stick to my plans and go through with it.
“The ball came out of my hand exactly the way I wanted it to. There was a bit of talk of me not hitting the stumps at Brisbane. But I was excited about the variable bounce, the reverse swing that Adelaide provides. It was really nice today, really nice feeling. Backed up again by all the bowlers.”
The 7-40 haul was the best bowling in an Ashes innings