So farewell, then, Mitchell Johnson, the enigmatic Australian quickie who announced his retirement from Test cricket on Tuesday, never to be forgotten by the Proteas.
Oh, how he loved South Africa. In his career of 73 Tests, he played South Africa 12 times, taking 64 wickets, conceding 1 641 at an average of 25.64.
Johnson was at his best in the first Test in 2014, at Centurion, where he ended with 7-68 and 5-59 to destroy South Africa and give his team victory by 281 runs.
Chasing a first-innings target of 397, South Africa were 23-3 in seven overs: Graeme Smith (10), Alviro Petersen (2) and Faf du Plessis (3) all blown away. Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon chipped in, too, but Johnson came back to smash Ryan McLaren (8), Robin Peterson (1) and finally ending AB de Villiers’ lone resistance on 92. The wicket of Morne Morkel (0) was a mere formality. All out for 206.
The Proteas were given a target of 482 to win. Johnson trashed Peterson (1), Smith (4), De Villiers (48), Duminy (10) and McLaren (6), who was hit on the head with such force he was ruled out of the next Test. Job done. All out for 200.
Mind you, South Africa had been warned: who can forget that innings of 8-61 in Perth in December 2008. Johnson destroyed South Africa with 5 for 2 in 21 deliveries. He swung the ball, then angled it across. He used the bouncer to devastating effect
It was a whirlwind of venom and power in a late afternoon spell, first of all smashing the stubborn stand of Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers who had put on 134 for the fourth wicket. Johnson had already dismissed Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith, but then he upped the pace, literally: De Villiers (63) fell at 234-4, followed by Kallis (63), JP Duminy (1), Morne Morkel (1), Paul Harris (0), Dale Steyn (8) and they were all out for 281.
But perhaps that Test was a measure of his inconsistency, for although he took three more wickets in the second innings, Smith led a strong batting performance with 108 to gain a six-wicket victory.
In Johannesburg the following year, he was almost unplayable in collecting 4-25 from 18.1 overs in the first innings. Notably, he swung the ball consistently, a feature of his game that had been lacking previously. Another four in the second innings and he had given Australia a 1-0 lead in the series.
In his 73 Tests, Johnson claimed 311 wickets for Australia, behind only Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee. He was the key figure in Australia’s 5-0 Ashes sweep in 2013-14, claiming a staggering 37 wickets across the five Tests and leaving an indelible mark with his pace and intimidation.
But since that series in South Africa, when he took 22 wickets for 382, at an average of 17.36, his returns have tailed off , and after struggling for impact in the two Tests of this series against New Zealand he has decided to finish – doing so before the inaugural day/night Test in Adelaide, a concept he has been notably sceptical about.
Johnson’s retirement rounds out a sequence of six exits from the national team around this year’s unsuccessful defence of the Ashes in England. Ryan Harris, Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin all left the stage before the home summer.
Compiled by Mark Salter