Neil Johnson’s opinions on England

Cricket365.com has an interesting Q&A with Neil Johnson:

“Harmison has serious gas”

Former Zimbabwean allrounder Neil Johnson displayed in England’s opening tour game against the Nicky Oppenheimer XI that he could still wield the willow with devastating effect.

The 34-year-old left-hander chats to exclusively C365 about the potency of the England attack, South Africa’s chances in PE and about his good friend Heath Streak.

Q) What was it like facing a quality new ball attack in the shape of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard again?

A) Hey, man it was damn exciting!, They have a good side, their bowlers are real quality. They hit the right areas all the time. They have improved in leaps and bounds since the last time I played them.

Q) Do you reckon it is an attack that will trouble South Africa in the first Test in Port Elizabeth?

A) No doubt, this side is right at the top of their game. They could match any team in the world at the moment – even Australia!

Q) What do you think is the greatest danger for South Africa to overcome in the England in the England team?

A) Harmison, without a shadow of the doubt. He’s got serious pace. Our boys haven’t faced anything like him. But you should not rule out Hoggard as well because he swings the ball at a lively pace. Andrew Flintoff also hits the deck hard, while Simon Jones is quick as anybody. With Ashley Giles also improving, they have a quality allround attack.

Q) Which team would you place a small wager on to win the first Test at St.Georges Park?

A) Ha,ha, ha Firstly, we as players are not allowed to bet on the match, but England should definitely be regarded as favourites. South Africa are still, however, playing at home where they have been traditionally strong so I have to go with them for the first Test.

Q) Your former Zimbabwean skipper Heath Streak also played at Randjiesfontein. Does he have any ambitions of still representing his country of birth?

A) Heath is an unbelievable character. He is still very passionate about Zimbabwean cricket and will relish the opportunity to return once all the problems are sorted out properly.

Q) A major reason for South Africa’s recent decline in both forms of the game has been placed at the feet of the weak domestic structure that has been in operation for the past few seasons. Has there been a marked improvement in the game since it reverted back to the strength-vs-strength system this season?

A) Provincial cricket was dying a slow death in South Africa. It was crazy that there were so many players of average standard, but now the standard of cricket is really getting better again.

Q) Are there any young players with either bat or ball coming through this system that might surprise the English like spinner Paul Adams did nine years ago against Mike Atherton’s tourists?

A) There are definitely some players looking to raise their game, such as Hashim Amla, Zander de Bruyn and also JP Duminy. Hashim especially I think is going to be the surprise package against England. He’s very gusty, gets into line well and has the temperament.

Q) South African skipper Graeme Smith does not captain Western Province/Boland – the same regional outfit that you represent. Do you think it would be beneficial for him to lead his province in order to gain more experience in the job?

A) He’s still young and sometimes it’s nice just to come back from the pressures of international tour and have a hit for your provincial outfit. However, he needs to learn as much about the art of captaincy as he can, but at the end of the day it’s up to the administrators.

Q) Do you still lie in bed at night and think back to that glorious innings of 132 not out in the Super Six match of the 1999 World Cup against Australia at Lords?

A) Ha, ha, ha! Nah, it’s been so long ago, but I still get flashes of it every time I hit the ball sweetly through the covers.

Q) Does Neil Johnson still have any personal ambitions to fulfill before he lays the willow to rest?

A) What you talking about? I still have great desire to play for South Africa!

By: Zaahier Adams