Assessing Mitchell Johnson's Record at WACA in Perth Before 3rd Ashes Test

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2013

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 08:  Mitchell Johnson of Australia celebrates dismissing England captain Alastair Cook during day four of the Second Ashes Test Match between Australia and England at Adelaide Oval on December 8, 2013 in Adelaide, Australia.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The outlook for England couldn't possibly appear bleaker.

After watching Australia's Mitchell Johnson brutalise them into submission in both Brisbane and Adelaide, the devastating left-armer is now preparing to step onto the ground that has been the home of his finest Test performances.

If there was any venue on the planet that England would like to avoid right now, it would be the WACA Ground in Perth.

Under siege at 2-0 down, Alastair Cook's side must find a way to put a halt to both Australia's momentum and Johnson's breathtaking form.

In just two outings so far in this Ashes series, Australia's spearhead has 17 wickets at an average of 12.70, with a remarkable strike rate of 28.0. 

Yet, the figures don't tell the whole story.

In Brisbane, Johnson utilised the extra pace and bounce inherent in the 'Gabba wicket to deliver a short-pitched assault on England, which saw the visitors depart from Queensland not only battered, but humiliated as well.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 06:  Mitchell Johnson of Australia celebrates after he took the wicket of Alastair Cook of England during day two of the Second Ashes Test Match between Australia and England at Adelaide Oval on December 6, 2013 in Adelaide,
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Down south in Adelaide, the 32-year-old dispensed with the short stuff, focusing his 90-plus mph thunderbolts at the stumps of England's batsmen, removing the pegs on four occasions and pinning Ben Stokes LBW on another.

Now, with the speed-haven of Perth awaiting, Johnson looks set to cause more carnage and inflict further pain upon a miserable looking England.

Indeed, examining Johnson's record in Western Australia makes for terrifying reading if you're an Englishman.

Mitchell Johnson's Test Bowling Record in Perth vs. Career:


Although the Perth wicket is not quite the lightning surface it was during the 1980s and 1990s, Johnson has found the rock-hard pitch at the WACA Ground to be incredibly conducive to his brutal methods.

At possibly the world's most unique venue, the rejuvenated spearhead owns an average almost 10 runs lower than that of his career mark. With his strike rate at the venue being almost 20 balls less per wicket, it is even more telling.

Few will ever forget his mauling of South Africa in 2008, when he removed five batsmen for just two runs in the space of 20 balls to dismantle the visitors. Sound familiar, England?

The current tourists won't have forgotten Johnson's performance in Perth in the previous Ashes series in Australia either, when he ripped England's top-order to shreds to breathe new life into the home side's stuttering campaign.

Breakdown of Mitchell Johnson's Test Bowling Performances in Perth:

2008South Africa1st244618
2009West Indies1st183922
2012South Africa1st173542

At times, statistical references can be overlooked in Test cricket, particularly with relation to venues, given the often-small sample sizes.

However, that can't be said of Johnson's record in Perth. In five visits to the ground, Australia's emphatic speedster has never walked away with less than five scalps.

In fact, the roll call of fast bowling greats that own lesser records at the WACA Ground than Johnson is staggering, with Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Craig McDermott and Brett Lee all sitting behind Johnson and his achievements at this venue.

Best Test Bowling Averages in Perth With 20-Plus Wickets:

Curtly Ambrose3247/259/7912.912.9126.630
Merv Hughes6398/8713/21719.282.7841.431
Mitchell Johnson5368/6111/15919.663.5033.621
Rodney Hogg5255/5710/12220.082.4249.621
Craig McDermott8388/9711/15722.282.8546.821
Jason Gillespie6255/887/11122.642.9745.610
Glenn McGrath12528/249/6824.072.5157.410
Jeff Thomson5215/937/13827.193.1252.210
Dennis Lillee7305/187/7727.232.6461.820

When you consider that Johnson takes his wickets in Perth at almost double the rate of Dennis Lillee—widely considered the king of Australian fast bowling—the task facing England in the third Test of this Ashes series becomes alarmingly clear.

But just when you thought it couldn't get worse for England, it does.

Examining Johnson's performances in Tests prior to arriving in Perth is fascinating.

Mitchell Johnson's Test Bowling Record in Perth vs. Matches Prior to Perth 2008-2012:

Matches Prior5175/1038/20847.763.6279.210


Those figures across each of his five matches prior to arriving at the WACA Ground are far from spectacular. So, why are they being mentioned?

Scarily for England, Johnson has managed to reduce batting lineups to rubble at his favourite venue, despite arriving there in poor form.

His nine wickets on the pace-friendly pitch against England in 2010 came after a shocking, wicketless performance in Brisbane, after which he was dropped.

If he's been able to claim his wickets at the WACA Ground at less than 20 runs apiece following some of his worst performances, then just what is he capable of producing at this venue on the back of 17 wickets at 12.70?

The prospect of Johnson touching down in Perth at the peak of his powers should be sending tremors up the spines of each England player.

Of course, that's if they don't have those tremors already.


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