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No doubt about it: Australia and Johnson are the real deal

So maybe England aren’t so bad after all. Maybe their whitewashing in the Ashes was much less to do with their own inadequacies than with the sudden emergence of a brilliant Australian team, one that can already be ranked alongside some of the nation’s all-time great sides.

That’s one way of looking at it anyway after the Baggy Greens did to South Africa, ranked number one in the world, what they did five times to England over the winter, not just beating them, but annihilating them. And on their own turf, too.

A 281-run victory in the First Test at Centurion, following a second innings declaration with only four wickets down, has a very familiar look to it. And now Australia are 8/5 with Coral to win the Second Test at Port Elizabeth and wrap up the three-match series (15/8 South Africa, 15/8 the draw).

South Africa, dismissed for 206 and 200, will need to lick their wounds and bounce back quickly if they are not to be beaten in a Test series for the first time in five years (also at home to Australia).and after losing the opener n such comprehensive fashion, you have to wonder whether that’s likely.

Their biggest problem can be summed up in two words: Mitchell Johnson. Australia are a very good side from one to eleven, but the man that really makes the difference is Johnson,.

Career-best figures of 12-127 at Centurion tell only half the story. Just as he did against England, the 32-year-old leftie pummelled the stuffing out of the Proteas. If he wasn’t hitting the wickets, he was hitting hands, arms, ribs and, in Ryan McLaren’s case, head – the all-rounder is now out of the Second Test with mild concussion.

Home strike-force Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are ranked first and second in the world, but it is hard to argue that Johnson (now officially up from ninth to fourth) is not the most potent fast bowler on the planet right now.

His figures for the past six Tests are extraordinary – 49 wickets at just over 13 – and here’s another impressive stat: just evens with Coral to be Australia’s top bowler in the first innings, even with Ryan Harris (ranked three in the world) and Peter Siddle (sixth) alongside in attack.

We can expect a closer contest at Port Elizabeth; batsmen of the calibre of Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith and the rest will surely find a way of coping better with Johnson second time around.

But this Aussie side, almost unrecognisable from the team England beat 3-0 last summer, do look the real deal now and with their tails right up, they look good for another big victory on their way back to the top.