Mitchell Johnson inspires Australia to innings victory over Sri Lanka in Melbourne
Injury-hit tourists crash to series defeat ahead of third and final match in Sydney
Johnson named man of the match after taking six wickets and hitting 92 not out
India levels Twenty20 series against Pakistan with 11-run win in second match at Ahmedabad
Mitchell Johnson was in danger of becoming the forgotten man of Australian cricket. Shunned by the selectors after an alarming loss of form, he spent a year out of the Test team as he struggled to overcome a foot injury.
But the 31-year-old is back with a bang, having terrorized Sri Lanka’s batsmen to help the home side clinch a 2-0 series win in Melbourne on Friday.
The left-arm paceman was named man of the match after claiming six wickets and scoring 92 not out as the tourists crumbled to defeat by an innings and 201 runs – Sri Lanka’s third worst reverse in the five-day game.
Johnson, only playing because of injuries to other bowlers, followed up his four-wicket haul from Sri Lanka’s first-innings 156 with a fiery spell that earned two more scalps and ended the tour of key batsman Kumar Sangakkara, who had scored 27.
Sangakkara, who on the opening day joined the elite club of players to have scored 10,000 Test runs, needs surgery on a broken finger after being hit on the gloves by Johnson – who also gave wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene a hairline thumb fracture in the first innings.
Neither Jayawardene nor bowler Chanaka Welegedara were able to bat due to injuries, and Sri Lanka collapsed to 103-7 all out in 24.2 overs. Two wickets fell in Johnson’s opening over of the innings, one of them a run out.
“The plan through this Test match was to get up their batters and unfortunately for them they got a few injuries out of it,” said Johnson, who passed the milestone of 200 wickets in his 49th Test.
“I think that intimidation factor definitely worked out there today. We found a bit of a weakness with them with the short ball … They obviously didn’t handle it as well as they would have liked.”
It marked a minor career resurrection for Johnson, who was Australia’s main strike bowler until his form fell apart during the 2010-11 Ashes series against England.
“In the time I’ve had off I’ve been able to reflect on a lot of things. I had probably got to the stage where I listened to a lot of outside influences – that doesn’t affect me anymore. I’m just happy with how I’ve come back, and making the most of the opportunities I get,” he said.
“It’s not every day you get to play for your country, and I’m pretty proud of the fact I’ve played 49 Tests now. You’ve just got to look to the future and, if you get picked, go out there and make the most of it. That’s what I’m doing … and playing with a smile on my face.
“I’ve always been happy playing for Australia, it just got to the point where I was feeling the pressure. It happens in professional sports, you can feel the pressure and start to believe in things that are said or outside influences, and it just got to that point for me.
“I’ve moved past that. I’m 31, I’ve been around the game for a long time now and I think I’ve matured in that I have belief in myself and just go out there and play my game and do the best job I can.”
Despite his heroics, Johnson is not guaranteed of starting the third Test in Sydney from January 3-7.
Mitchell Starc is expected to return after being rested, while debutant Jackson Bird made a strong impression as an opening bowler, taking two wickets in each innings.
“His control with the new ball is an area that I think we’ve been looking for,” captain Michael Clarke said. “The one thing I really like about Jackson is you know what you’re going to get.
“He bowled into the breeze the whole game and did a fantastic job for us. I think Birdy played a huge part in Mitch’s success in the first innings, and it allows a bowler like Mitch to be able to attack.”
Australia will be without key all-rounder Shane Watson, who has a calf injury, meaning Glenn Maxwell has the chance to make his Test debut after previous appearances in limited-overs internationals.
Meanwhile, India leveled the Twenty20 series against Pakistan with an 11-run victory in the second match at Ahmedabad on Friday.
The home side put on 192-5 after batting first, with Yuvraj Singh smashing 72 off 36 balls, sending seven deliveries over the boundary ropes.
Pakistan could not follow up Tuesday’s five-wicket win in Bangalore, finishing on 181-7 after 20 overs. Ashok Dinda took 3-36 from his four overs.
It is the first bilateral series between the neighboring countries in five years. The three-match one-day series will start on Sunday.