The abandonment left Australia 1-0 up with two to play in the five-match series ahead of Saturday’s clash in Cardiff, with their 88-run win in Manchester falling between two rain-affected no results in Leeds and now Birmingham.
However, of arguably greater significance than Wednesday’s raw result was left-arm paceman Johnson’s return of one wicket for 20 runs in five overs which came as England slumped to 59 for three before rain stopped play.
Kevin Pietersen was Johnson’s prize scalp, the star batsman unable to get over the top of a short ball and lobbing a gentle catch to square-leg.
Johnson was also unlucky not to dismiss Jonathan Trott as a couple of close leg-before decisions went against him after he’d previously dismissed the top-order batsman for a duck in Manchester.
Rather like the child in the nursery rhyme, when Johnson is good “he’s very, very good and when he’s bad he’s horrid,” with unplayable deliveries often mixed in with extravagant wides.
Australia wicketkeeper Matthew Wade is arguably better-placed than anyone else right now to assess Johnson’s bowling and the Victoria gloveman said after stumps: “It’s quick — it’s one of the quickest I’ve probably kept to for a little while now.”
“His rhythm is amazing, but more importantly his accuracy is second to none at the moment. He’s swinging the ball nicely, and hitting the stumps enough.
“He was probably unlucky not to get Trott here. He bowled really nicely to him … one of our big things is to take early wickets, and Mitchell is getting that done for us at the moment.”
Wade added: “The bowlers that are going around currently, Mitchell is certainly hitting the gloves as hard as anyone of those.”
Johnson also hit Trott on the grille of the batsman’s helmet and Wade confirmed the South Africa-born batsman could expect plenty more short stuff before this series was over.
“I definitely think it’s a plan,” said Wade. “It’s something we’ll keep trying to do. Any batsman getting bouncers at the pace Mitchell has been bowling at in the last couple of games is going to find it quite difficult.”
“With Trott, it’s definitely a plan — not only the bouncer, we’re trying to mix his feet up and get LBWs and caught-behinds. It’s definitely one of our main plans to him for sure. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work that one out, I suppose.”
The 31-year-old Johnson has had to bear the brunt of jibes from England fans on account of his waywardness and he wasn’t selected for the recent 3-0 Ashes 2013 defeat by Australia’s arch-rivals.
But with several Australia fast bowlers — including James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Ryan Harris, Jackson Bird and Pat Cummins — all currently sidelined by injury, Wade said it would be no surprise if Johnson were to add to his tally of 51 Tests come the Ashes 2013-14 opener in the return series Down Under in Brisbane in November.
“If you were picking the team tomorrow, I’m sure he’d be in it because we haven’t got a lot of fast bowlers that are available,” Wade said. “If he bowls like this, he’ll definitely be in the mix for the first Test come the Ashes for sure.”
“He can only keep doing what he’s doing now and the other stuff will take care of itself. I would say if he was bowling like he is now, he’d be right in contention.”
England stand-in captain Eoin Morgan, leading the side in the absence of the rested Alastair Cook, was well aware of Johnson’s capabilities.
“We know when he bowls well, he’s pretty dangerous,” said Morgan.
However, the Irishman added: “We’ve played against him long enough to know that when he’s at his best he’s very, very good — but if he gets it wrong, he gives you enough scoring opportunities to capitalise.”