We were outplayed, Mitchell Johnson tore us apart – words not out of the mouth of South Africa captain Graeme Smith following his side’s four-day batting by Australia. 

Johnson continued his ridiculous Ashes form to take 12 wickets, and smash the helmets of Hashim Amla and Ryan McLaren in the process. 

His captain Michael Clarke, who should also take significant credit for hits handling of the big quick in short spells with creative field placings, was full of praise again for his strike weapon. 

Smith, however, blamed the pitch with a few back-handed compliments along the way.

”I think the surface suited his style of bowling here,” Smith said.

”He got a lot of difficult bounce, he got a lot of balls to get really big on batters in good areas, which made it obviously very tough. But it’s not long ago that we can think back to big moments in games where we’ve been able to put him under pressure.

”Obviously he’s bowling well, [but] I truly believe that the wicket played a big role in the success that he had. The stats, even in the Ashes, say that he picked up a lot of lower-order wickets.”

Smith’s comments are a bit rich for a few reasons. Firstly, given a pitch deteriorates during a Test, he won the toss and decided he’d like to bat second and fourth on it. 

And Johnson claiming lots of lower order batsmen? In the first innings he claimed the scalps of four of the Proteas’ top five, including Smith himself for 10 and the world’s top-ranked batsman AB De Velliers. He then took Smith for a second time on just 4 runs in the second innings, along with his opening partner Alviro Petersen for a second time in the match. 

Clarke is ecstatic his firebrand is not just back to his fastest, but for the most part in control. Smith is right, it wasn’t long ago that the Barmy Army were singing ‘He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, Mitchell Johnson his bowling is shite”. 

”I don’t know what South Africa is feeling right now,” Clarke said. ”I know there is not one cricket lover around the world that doesn’t know Mitchell Johnson is bowling at 150km/h and executing his skills better than any other bowler in the world.”

The second Test begins at Port Elizabeth on Thursday. 

Images via Getty