In normal circumstances, an Australian fast bowler’s reaction or his team-mates’ would have been anything but kind after hitting a batsman on his head with a bouncer. But these are not normal times, and so when Mitchell Johnson struck Virat Kohli bang on the crest of his helmet with the ball travelling at a speed of over 145kmph, the scenes were remarkably uncharacteristic of Australian players.
Johnson, and with all justification, had been perceived as the most dangerous bowler even before India had set their feet on these shores. For the first two spells on Thursday, the middle day of the first Test here, Johnson couldn’t make much of an impression. He was in fact dealt with quite comfortably as he conceded 34 runs in his first five overs, spread over two short spells.
It was, however, just a matter of time before he came blasting out. Michael Clarke, looking for a breakthrough with lunch break around the corner, summoned his most potent weapon and he was not going to disappoint this time.
Bowling the 29th over, Johnson struck Murali Vijay on his shoulder with the batsman having little time to duck or sway away from the line of the ball that was hurled at 148kmph. He followed that up with another good bouncer, putting doubts in Vijay’s mind. It wasn’t long before he had the batsman playing away from the body and feathering an away going delivery behind stumps.
In came Kohli and he was welcomed with a nasty delivery. The Indian skipper tried to duck but the ball didn’t climb enough to escape without hitting him. “Your heart skips a beat, especially for the four guys out there,” Lyon said of himself, David Warner, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, who were at the SCG when Phillip Hughes was felled. “I know I went to everyone just to ask if they were ok, because it’s something you don’t want to see again. We were out there for Phil’s incident and today that sound was pretty familiar. That’s why we all ran in there quite quickly to see if he was ok. It’s something you don’t want to see ever happen again, what happened with Phil.”
As soon as the ball struck Kohli, all the close-in fielders converged around the right-hander, making polite quiries. Johnson, appearing as though he had just committed a crime, walked up to Kohli and put an arm around his shoulder to comfort. Clarke looked genuinely concerned and umpire Ian Gould suggested Kohli to relax for a moment. The crowd, which otherwise would have applauded the bowler’s effort, remained silent.
That Kohli went on to hit a fine hundred, Lyon said, had reassured Johnson and others that he could bowl short balls with confidence. “It has been a positive thing as bad as that sounds, we know the helmets work and to have that confidence for our quicks to bowl the bouncer again,” Lyon pointed out. “We spoke about that at lunch time with Mitch so he’s feeling good and I can guarantee he’s going to come out and fire in the second innings and have that aggression we all love him for.”