Familiar feel in Mitch's first visit to Alice | Big Bash League BBL
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KFC BBL|07

Familiar feel in Mitch's first visit to Alice

14 January 2018

Trip to the red centre brings back memories for Johnson as age challenges the veteran quick

There were a couple of eerie moments during Mitchell Johnson's first visit to Alice Springs, as part of the inaugural KFC Big Bash League fixture in the nation's centre, where he was transported back to his adolescence in northern Queensland.

The first came when he began his warm-ups with his Perth Scorchers teammates at Traeger Park and the moisture from the previous day's torrential rainstorm came leeching out of the surface under the early afternoon sun, much as it would in tropical Townsville where he grew up.

The second came midway through the 13th over of the Adelaide Strikers' innings when Jake Lehmann attempted an audacious reverse paddle and looped the ball to backward square leg, which meant the 36-year-old had to sprint to his right and dive full length to clutch the chance in his outstretched right hand.

Barely above the turf, as his body crashed to the only slightly softened central Australian ground.

"I just saw it off his bat and I thought it brought back a few old memories of the backyard, in the swimming pool," Johnson told cricket.com.au in the wake of the Scorchers' six-wicket win that has installed them back atop the BBL|07 ladder.

"The old classic catches in the swimming pool, it was a bit of a flashback, back in the Townsville days doing that a lot.

"It just sort of stuck and didn't pop out, and I was pretty happy with it actually."

Johnson hanger leaves Strikers in strife

But amid those re-runs of his boyhood days and earlier senior cricket career with Queensland came a brutal reminder of why Johnson has restricted himself to the solitary 20-over franchise competition.

And why he prefers to manage himself in spells of two overs, at the very most.

With the Strikers' opening pair Alex Carey (44 off 32 balls) and Jake Weatherald (19 off 21) laying a solid platform on a Traeger Park pitch rendered slightly sluggish by the 11mm of rain that fell in the 24 hours before game time, the Scorchers were straining for a breakthrough.

Filling in for regular captain Adam Voges who was serving a one-game suspension for his team's slow over rate against Sydney Thunder days previously, skipper Ashton Turner called on his former Test spearhead to bowl a third consecutive over at the top of the innings.

A move with which Johnson disagreed, battling as he was to regain breath and energy as the temperature nudged mid-30C and humidity levels peaked in excess of 50 per cent, making the usual desert heat of Alice Springs even more debilitating.

Match Highlights: Agar, Cartwright inspire Scorchers

"I wasn't too happy about it, I was sucking them (deep breaths) in only after two overs," he said prior to a lengthy post-match autograph signing session with local fans.

"I didn't want to bowl that third over, and the only reason was we didn't get any wickets up front and I just thought maybe hold me back that little extra, bowl through the middle.

"The wicket was okay, it was a little bit slower and the ball had stopped swinging, it only swung in that first over so I just thought maybe hold me back and just bowl through that middle period and towards the end would have been a good option.

"But the captain is the captain, he makes the decisions and you've got to stand by them.

"I was just trying to get some air back in my lungs.

"I should be used to it but maybe the old legs struggled a bit.

"We did have a fairly quick turnaround (from last Thursday's game in Sydney), so I can blame it on that maybe."

The left-armer was also wary of seeking respite in the shade of a large gum tree that threw its cover near the boundary rope at deep fine leg, having been warned in a previous match about lingering in the shade outside the playing arena as a bowler begins his run-up.

As it transpired, Johnson finished his four overs without a wicket (0-22) but the damage was inflicted by spinner Ashton Agar (3-19) as the Strikers crashed from 0-49 to 112 all out at the start of the 20th over.

Tight bowling from the Adelaide attack kept the Scorchers in check until a crucial moment in the 16th over with Perth 4-89 and Hilton Carthwright making a surge, until he was caught at deep mid-wicket from ex-Test quick Peter Siddle.

But Siddle had overstepped and when the follow-up delivery yielded a six for Cartwright from the resultant free hit, the game was effectively decided and the Scorchers' allrounder finished unbeaten on 47.

Agar’s triple treat in Alice Springs

"They can (hurt you), and he (Siddle) knows better than to bowl no-balls," Strikers coach Jason Gillespie said in the aftermath of the loss that has cost his team top spot.

"You try and minimise that as much as you can. but at the end of the day we still didn't score enough runs.

"There were some good signs, we started well with Alex (Carey) and Jake (Weatherald) but unfortunately that middle period, between overs seven and 15 we lost five wickets and only managed to score 45 runs.

"And then in the end, losing 5-20 and getting bowled out for 112, was simply not good enough.

"But taking the great product that is the Big Bash to different regions, to different communities, from that point of view it's been an absolute success.

"It's been great to bring some Big Bash Cricket to the centre of Australia.

"So we're looking forward to coming back next year and hopefully we can have a different result."

Cartwright crunches 47no in Scorchers’ victory

Like the Big Bash itself, Johnson has never previously displayed his cricket wares in central Australia and was also an unashamed enthusiast for the experience, as part of the first BBL fixture in the Northern Territory.

And was deeply appreciative to find some crowd support at what was notionally a Strikers' home game.

"Out on the boundary it was quite nice to hear the fans really enjoying it and being able to give the thumbs up," Johnson said.

"I guess sometimes you get abused when you're playing away from home (but) it wasn't the case here, so it was nice to have that support and give a bit of a show.

"It probably wasn't the high-scoring game that would have been nice to put on, you want to see boundaries and sixes, but I think the game was played in the right spirit and that's what it's all about."

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Perth Scorchers BBL

Mitchell Johnson

KFC BBL|07