A gigantic, horned, fire-breathing dragon with seven heads came out of the smoke of the abyss. Its tail capable of sweeping a third of the stars from the sky. Its saliva enough to burn a man alive. Every putrid had breath black smoke emitting from its nostrils. Violence emanated from its apocalyptic eyes.
And a moustache of maliciousness smirking at the many fallen. Mitchell Johnson, savagery and annihilation. From outcast to beast.
Reborn in Mumbai during the IPL. Fed on slogging franchise employees. Stripped of subtlety. Stimulated by flinching opposition to white balls. Pumped up by legends. Then let go to turn England’s sun into darkness, and their moon into blood.
If the job at the Gabba was to break the arm of James Anderson, then at the Adelaide Oval, the point was to break England’s spine.
Alastair Cook had been thrown aside like he was a rag doll the night before. England’s knight. The guardian and chief guardsman barely saw the ball that destroyed his stumps.
Then there was a pause. The monster let England breathe. They fought, won and lost battles with others. Then he re-emerged.
Ben Stokes faced Johnson in much the same way you would a gigantic fire-breathing creature. The sound of the ball hitting the pad screamed “I’m a county batsman, get me outta here”.
Matt Prior almost lost his chest. Matt Prior almost lost his head. Matt Prior lost his wicket. Matt Prior is lost.
Stuart Broad tried something different, rather than standing in the crease and facing a thunderbolt, he complained about shiny bolts on the sightscreen. It gave his innings more minutes than it deserved. Men scrambled around, perhaps sensing that if Mitch couldn’t have Broad, they might be victims of his wrath. Ladders were found. Bolts were covered. And now Broad had run out of reasons to delay it. By this stage, there was no one left at the ground who really expected him to bat out the over, all one ball of it. Broad’s stumps seemed to detonate before the ball arrived there. Broad was off outside off stump, far from the carnage, far from okay.
England’s over of death, destruction and some other terrible fate had cost them three wickets for the addition of no runs.
Next over, Graeme Swann played the best-weighted shot of his life and ran a three, leaving the only worthy protector of the realm, Ian Bell, to stand guard. The following over, after another brilliantly weighted three from Swann, Bell let him face the last two balls. Earlier, Swann had spooned one safely from near on his throat. This time he didn’t wait for anything at him, he just flung his bat and was caught in slips by a ball that might have de-handed a club cricketer.
Then came Anderson.
Jimmy can be stubborn. Jimmy can survive. Jimmy will slash past catchers. Jimmy can get off strike. Jimmy can annoy.
In this innings, it’s unknown if Jimmy could even open his eyes. He went at the ball with all the confidence of a man who had seen all his team-mates eaten alive and the knowledge that his only protection was an expired library card. His hands were around the bat handle as if it were a live serpent. His middle stump died a tragic death. He was stared at and mocked. Silently. Perhaps in tribute to Anderson asking Johnson to quiet down in Perth three years ago.
Monty Panesar got a reprieve when the beast left the crease to polish the skulls of those he had already vanquished. His innings of tough, tail-end squatting was 33 balls in when the beast came back. He ended up facing 35.
If you visit Adelaide Oval tonight, all you’ll find is chunks of English batsmen. Perhaps you’ll also hear the howls of the damned, and the occasional snap of stump.
“Some say the end is near. Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon. I certainly hope we will. I sure could use a vacation from this” screamed Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool. The end is a while away. England are finding their Armageddon is taking too long. There are no vacations planned for English batsmen. Just seven more innings of potential butchery. In three short innings, Johnson has virtually torn the Ashes off them.
You could argue that Mitchell Johnson is not actually a gigantic, horned, fire-breathing dragon with seven heads. You could also argue that, if he were, he couldn’t have done much more damage today.