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South Africa will find it tough against Mitchell Johnson, says Merv Hughes

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Former Australian pacer Merv Hughes has warned Australia not to underestimate the South African bowling attack © Getty Images

Feb 1, 2014

Former Australian fast-bowler Merv Hughes feels that Mitchell Johnson will give South Africa a terrible time in the three-test series which is set to start in the Rainbow Nation and also warned the Australians to not underestimate the home side’s bowlers which is spearheaded by Dale Steyn.

Hughes was impressed with Johnson’s tear away pace in Australia’s 5-0 drubbing of England in the 2013-14 Ashes series and also insisted on a repeat performance against the Proteas in the upcoming series reported the Daily Telegraph.

“Mitchell Johnson has done his job, been the intimidator. If you are going to bowl 150km/h and bowl half volleys you are not going to intimidate many people,” said Hughes.

Johnson has twice broken South Africa skipper Graeme Smith’s hand with his rocket like deliveries and also once left Kumar Sangakkara with a concussion after the Sri Lankan was hit by a thunderbolt of a delivery in a Test match at Melbourne.

Also England’s Jonathan Trott received a barrage of Johnson’s deliveries in the first Ashes Test at Brisbane in November which may have left him battered and bruised mentally.

“For us to go after the tail and all England’s batsmen was very good to watch,” said Hughes who bustled to 212 wickets at an average of 28 in 53 Tests. You go out and play hard, understand their strengths and weaknesses,” said Hughes who has an impressive statistic of 212 Test wickets in 53 matches.

Johnson who sported a ‘lucky moustache’ during Australia’s drubbing of England has probably turned the luck in his favour as he picked up 37 wickets at an average of 14 in the five-match Test series.

Johnson has also surpassed Hughes in the Top 10 all time list of Australian bowlers as he reached 242 wickets and will also move past Richie Benaud provided he picks up seven more.

“Moustache or no moustache he is going to be bowling150km/h at the batsmen,” said Hughes, who played his final Test at Cape Town in 1994 where Australia won to square its post-Apartheid return series 1-1. It is great for me every time someone with a moustache takes a wicket as I always get mentioned but whether Mitchell Johnson has his moustache on or not, it will not affect the way he bowls,” said Hughes of Johnson.

“They have an outstanding bowling line up with Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn so we are going to have to be at our very best to beat the South Africans. What you expect and what you hope for are two different things,” added Hughes who also feels that playing against South Africa will be an ever greater challenge for Australia than the recently concluded Ashes series.

Despite the absence of Jacques Kallis for the Proteas, Australia will still have other key players like Graeme Smith, AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla to contend with.

“South Africa is going to be unsettled with the loss of Jacques Kallis but they have a number of good players,” said Hughes.

“All the indications are very good. It has been a great bowling group really. Ryan Harris has been that steady bloke and if you had said he would play all five Tests and the start of the series you would have been surprised. Peter Siddle goes from strength to strength, has been the backbone of the attack for a couple of years now, been doing very well. Nathan Lyon has been outstanding. If you have a bowling group gelling together it makes things a lot easier,” added Hughes who is impressed by the Australian bowling attack of Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon.

On being queried about the  South African bowling attack Hughes replied,” Dale Steyn has been tried and tested over a period of time and bowls quick, his success rate against Australia has been pretty good. He leads from the front. They have a good bowling combination, work well in unison. Morkel plays a sort of Mitchell Johnson role. He will run in back of a length, try and pound the batsmen into submission. Philander has come on, pitches up and nips it around off the seam and air. I rate Steyn as South Africa’s most dangerous bowler you don’t discount the other two.”

While playing South Africa at home will be a different ball game altogether, Hughes also feels that Australia will not be provided the luxury of scoring runs deep down the order, as wicket-keeper batsman Brad Haddin did, scoring 461 runs in four of the five Test matches against England.

With George Bailey getting the axe, the No 3 and No 6 positions in the Australian batting remains vacant, with Shane Watson, newbie Alex Doolan and Phil Hughes amongst the contenders for the spots.

“We have to get more consistent with our batting but most of the batsman made hundreds in the recent series and hopefully the guys can continue on with a win over there,” signed off Hughes.

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