Melbourne: Australian cricket skipper Ricky Ponting has hailed Mitchell Johnson as the world's premier quick.
Johnson, on a hattrick in his first over against Pakistan yesterday, now has a staggering 63 Test wickets at 27.42 in a year where his fortunes fluctuated wildly.
He has claimed 17 more wickets than Test cricket's next best performed quick, England young gun Stuart Broad.
It now seems hard to believe that Johnson could hardly hit the pitch during the second Ashes Test at Lord's and was on the brink of being dropped.
The masterstroke was Ponting taking the new ball out of the fast bowler's hands in England. It gave Johnson more freedom and less pressure and also helped the left-armer become a dangerous weapon by swinging the older ball.
"I honestly feel one of the big things for Mitch is the fact he's not bowling with the new ball," Ponting said.
"We've seen at different times how dangerous and damaging he can be with the new ball, but I think we've seen here in conditions where the old ball does a little bit as well, that's when he's at his most effective," Ponting added.
"I spoke to him in India in the one-day series about that fact, that he fits in our team best as that first-change bowler and he's proven in this game here that with an old ball he's dangerous. He'll continue to change things, he'll continue trying to work on becoming a very good new-ball bowler as well," Ponting said.
Despite coming on at first-change behind Peter Siddle and Doug Bollinger, a rejuvenated Johnson insists he remains the spearhead of the Australian attack.
"I'm still the leader of the attack even though I'm not taking the new ball," Johnson declared.
"I am just thinking more positively about my bowling and just have the confident to go out there and do what I want to do and not worry about another thing," he said.