Fast bowler Spencer Johnson is now focusing on his remote chances of receiving an Ashes call-up after choosing to stay with South Australia despite a sizable offer to move to Queensland.
On the heels of a breakthrough summer that started with a stint in Brisbane, where he earned praise as a T20 bowler, and ended with him breaking into the first-class ranks. Then a spot in Australia after a tour to New Zealand, Johnson confirmed on Wednesday that he had signed a three-year deal to remain in Adelaide.
This 27-year-old Australian bowler is still hoping to get a chance even though Australia’s 17-man squad for the next World Test Championship Final against India and the commencement of the next Ashes campaign were announced just before his contract announcement.
Although this doesn’t seem to be happening in reality as the test team already consists of four specialist quicks (Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Scott Boland), fellow seamers Michael Neser and Sean Abbott are now playing county cricket in the UK and appear to be the next in line.
However, the fact that Johnson missed out on the spot in the starting lineup for South Africa’s second XI at the start of last summer before finding himself taking the new ball for Australia less than six months later says nothing should be discounted as fantastical in his incredible rise.
The information that the national selection panel will review and perhaps make changes to the Ashes squad after the second Test at Lord’s and panel chair George Bailey’s comment that any such changes would “be particular on who we need and why” work in Johnson’s advantage.
Moreover, it isn’t difficult for Johnson to step in as an understudy should a like-for-like substitute for Starc be required in the UK, given that he previously served as Starc’s body double while filming a series of television ads ten years ago.
And with Lance Morris and Jhye Richardson of Western Australia, two other Test contenders who, like Johnson, are capable of consistently clocking speeds above 140kph, out with back and hamstring ailments, respectively, the 193cm SA quick’s hopes seem even less fantastical.
Johnson stated, revealing he had not signed up to play cricket in the UK over the southern winter but would instead be in Adelaide’s gym keeping his fitness in case he was required, “There are six Tests over there, and things can happen,” adding that he was aware that there was still a chance to be played.
On the other hand, Tim Nielsen, the high performance manager for the SA Cricket Association and a former coach of the Australia men’s team, states that left-arm quicks of Johnson’s height, pace, and ability to take wickets are a decided rarity. He made this observation yesterday when announcing the contract agreement.
It’s one of the main reasons Nielsen and the Redbacks wanted to ensure Johnson stayed in Adelaide after he was forced to miss most of the previous four seasons due to injury. As an under-19 representative, Johnson has been a part of the state program as well.
When this tall fast bowler joined the Brisbane Heat in the KFC BBL last season, he declared his return to senior cricket after a protracted absence. He quickly won praise from judges, including former Test quick Brett Lee.
Johnson secured a recall to the South African Marsh One-Day Cup team upon his return to Adelaide earlier this year. Shortly after, he made his Marsh Sheffield Shield debut and grabbed 15 wickets (at a strike rate of 13.07) in his first two matches against Victoria and Queensland.
It should come as no surprise that Queensland tried to woo him up north to continue his career with the Bulls and also to rejoin the Heat, but the former youth Australian Rules goalkeeper insisted his heart had always belonged to his native state.
He further said that he is a South Australian and enjoys playing at the Oval Stadium in Adelaide. Hence, he is filled with contentment to be here.
Ultimately, he decided to choose his love and loyalty for his native state over Queensland.