Johannesburg: Australia's enigmatic fast bowler Mitchell Johnson believes he can nab plenty of wickets in South Africa - simply by replicating the way he bowled in Sri Lanka.
Though Johnson returned only six wickets at 52.18 in Australia's 1-0 series win, he felt his rhythm and pace were good enough to do greater damage in more helpful conditions. These climes almost certainly await him in South Africa, where Johnson was at his most fearsome in the tourists' unexpected 2-1 success in early 2009.
"I actually felt I bowled pretty well, pretty consistent over in Sri Lanka," Johnson said at Western Australia's season launch in Perth. "Obviously I didn't get the wickets. That's what the selectors want to see - wickets and runs. But for me I felt like I bowled pretty well, pretty consistent. My pace was up.
"So it's just getting those wickets on board. If I bowled like I did in Sri Lanka in South Africa, I think I'm going to get wickets over there. As a bowling unit I think we bowled well as a group. That was the most exciting thing for me."
The bowling ensemble in Sri Lanka was one of Australia's most united and committed for some time, as Ryan Harris, Trent Copeland, Peter Siddle, Shane Watson, Nathan Lyon and Johnson all bowled in strong partnerships to keep the hosts in check. The collective strength of the group has created pressure for places, as Siddle and the yet-to-be-capped James Pattinson also impressed.
"There's always been pressure to perform and there's always guys there pushing the envelope to get the spot to be in the team," Johnson said. "So there's always that pressure there but you try not to think about it too much and just go out there and try to perform the best you can, and hopefully that's good enough."
Mickey Arthur, Johnson's coach at Western Australia and also a contender for the national position vacated by Tim Nielsen, said he was somewhat surprised to see the left-armer facing so much external scrutiny to retain his place.
"Mitchell Johnson is a spearhead, he's your match-winner, and your strike bowler is going to be a little bit erratic at times," Arthur said. "That's what you live with, but you balance your attack around that. Mitchell is a proven match winner and he'll do it time and time again for Australia in the future.
"He really likes bowling in South Africa and he's got a very good record in South Africa. He's been training really well with us. Technically he looks in a really good place at the moment, so I'm expecting a big series from him."
Johnson was left out of the Twenty20 portion of the South African tour, and having elected not to play in the Big Bash League has few avenues by which to get back. If he ever does return to the T20 international squad, Johnson said he would work on bowling a more venomous yorker.
"You want to play as much cricket for your country as you can and I'm always wanting to play as much cricket as I can for my country and that's my main goal. Obviously there's a little bit of disappointment there," Johnson said. "I feel like I've played Twenty20 well. My record shows that.
"But obviously I probably didn't perform as well as I could have in Sri Lanka in those Twenty20 games. I'm disappointed but it gives me something to work towards. I look at that last series and I didn't really get the wickets. In the first game I got belted around a little bit, which can happen in Twenty20 cricket.
"I think one big thing that lets me down a little bit is I haven't got a really good yorker. So if I can just work on those little things, I think that can get me back in the game.
"The reason why [I'm not playing in the BBL] is to focus on the summer ahead. We've got a big Test summer coming up against NZ first and then India, who have just lost their No.2 spot. They'll be trying to get back up to the No.1 position. That's what we're trying to do, we're trying to work our way up in the Test ranks."