Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson says he is relishing the role of being the man English crowds love to hate.
Johnson was subjected to prolonged vocal abuse as England won the third Ashes Test by eight wickets inside three days at Birmingham's Edgbaston ground to take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
Now Johnson is bracing himself for more of the same at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge, where the fourth Test starts on Thursday.
But at age 33, the left-arm paceman regards the barracking as a “compliment” and said the way in which he had stopped his run and then bowled from beside the umpire on Friday were his way of responding to the taunts, rather than a sign that spectators had got to him.
“I get among it a bit more now,” Johnson said on Tuesday.
“When the whole crowd is cheering my name at the end of a game – when they (England) have just won – you have to take that as a compliment; where I did stop in my run-up was deliberate to try and have a bit of fun with the crowd.
“I definitely feel like I can take the brunt of it and I take the focus off the other guys and I’ve really embraced that role.
“When you’re walking with your family in the street, I think it’s a bit overboard. But on the field, I think that’s fair game – I’m all for it.”
Johnson produced arguably the two most dramatic deliveries of the entire series in England's first innings at Edgbaston when he struck twice in three balls to dismiss Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes with two sharply rising throat balls the England batsmen could only glove to wicketkeeper Peter Nevill.
Yet such hostility was not forthcoming from Johnson in the rest of the match.
“I don’t know. I guess from my point of view I was just trying to really dry up the runs and I probably just lost that bit of aggression,” Johnson said. “I don’t read into it too much. But I think because the ball has been swinging over here a lot more, I feel like I’m trying to get the ball up there a lot more often anyway.
“I feel like I’ve bowled a lot fuller this trip. I’ve been really happy with the way I’ve bowled, generally.”
An England win at Trent Bridge would seal a fourth consecutive home Ashes series – something they have not achieved since before Australia recorded their first away series win in 1899.
“Hopefully, we can come out here and win this Test match because, if we don’t, we are in big trouble,” Johnson said.
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