Mitchell Johnson’s turnaround from career-worst to career-best bowling shocked England, but the left-armer won’t have the same effect on South Africa according to Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis.
Johnson’s low point came in a miserable 2009 Ashes campaign, and he then slogged through an unremarkable 2010-11 edition of cricket’s greatest rivalry save for a stellar performance in Perth.
The Johnson that then blasted England away, taking 37 wickets to be man of the series in the 2013-14 Ashes, was an unfamiliar and frightening beast for the tourists.
South Africans best remember the early 2009 Johnson vintage – a confronting blend of broken bones, buckets of wickets and a maiden Test century with the bat.
The Australian camp feel Johnson is an improved bowler on what the Proteas have ever seen in person.
But run-scoring machine Amla says his side knows exactly what will be charging in when the first Test starts on Wednesday in Centurion.
“The surprise factor is valuable for any team. I don’t think in this series there’s too many surprise factors,” Amla replied when asked on Monday if South Africa would be better prepared to handle Johnson’s thunderbolts than England.
“We’ve played against Australia quite a few times over the past few years, and (predominantly) the same bowling attack as well.”
AB de Villiers expressed similar sentiments last week, as did du Plessis.
“We’ve played against Mitchell before. He’s a fantastic bowler and he’s playing really well, but it’s not something that we haven’t seen,” du Plessis said.
“We have to respect he’s bowling really well at he moment and find ways to deal with it, but we’re ready.”
South Africa are yet to beat Australia in a Test series at home since the nation’s readmission post-apartheid in 1994.
Amla admitted the record was a motivating factor for a team that has been No.1 in the ICC’s Test rankings since August 2012.
“Over the past few series we’ve played against Australia we have had success, and it would be nice to translate that success into a home series,” Amla said, referencing series wins in 2008-09 and 2012.