||Durham have taken a gamble on one of world cricket’s most unpredictable stars for this summer’s Twenty20 Cup.
In new signing Mitchell Johnson, the Riversiders have a player capable of matching the star quality of fellow overseas man Herschelle Gibbs.
But if Johnson forces his way back into Australia’s one-day plans, the 30-year-old will miss all but a couple of matches. Australia play five one-day internationals – including one at Chester-le-Street – in June and July.
Having taken soundings about it, it is a risk Durham are ready to take.
“Australia have given their blessing and Mitchell feels he will be available for the majority of, if not all of, our games,” explained coach Geoff Cook.
“All we can do is take that word. He is still recovering to an extent from injury, so he needs to get some cricket into him.
“Hopefully he’ll turn up very fresh and very keen.
“It’s a perennial problem for all clubs to find someone who’s available. But, where he stood injury-wise, we felt there was a good chance of him being with us for the majority of the competition.”
The swing-bowling all-rounder was 2009 ICC Cricketer of the Year. He took 63 wickets that year, more than any other player, and hit his only Test century, 123 not out against South Africa. He reached three figures off just 83 balls.
That, and his high strike-rate, make the left-armer an ideal Twenty20 player. At international level his runs have come at 117 per 100 balls and his wickets – 36 in 28 games – at a strike-rate of 16.
Johnson is an unpredictable quantity. He took 0-170 in the first Test and was dropped for the second. In the third he scored 62 and his 10 wickets were instrumental in Australia’s 267-run victory.
Although he returned to his erratic ways in the last two games of the series to ridicule from the Barmy Army, he still finished as his country’s leading wicket-taker, with 15 victims at 36.93. In all Johnson has played 47 Tests, 107 one-day internationals and 28 Twenty20s.