Johnson winds back clock with fiery spell

Australian quick unleashes fury on Kolkata batsmen and has watching Kevin Pietersen happy to be safe in the commentary box

Former adversary Kevin Pietersen was full of praise for Mitchell Johnson in the final qualifier of the Indian Premier League for a firebrand spell of fast bowling.

The Mumbai quick had his tail up against the Kolkata Knight Riders, taking 2-28 from four express overs that had the commentary team reliving Johnson's Test exploits over again.

"I cannot stress the importance of the intimidation factor from Mitchell Johnson," Kevin Pietersen said in his role as television commentator.

"I played against him recently at the WACA and the MCG (in the KFC Big Bash League), played against him in (my) last few Test matches and you know you're in a contest with Mitchell Johnson.

Johnson celebrates a wicket in the IPL qualifier // BCCI

"If you're a top order batsman, you're not happy when that bloke is at the top of his mark, so this is brilliant that he is playing and he is running in fast and he is being aggressive."

Johnson was recalled due to an injury to Kiwi Mitchell McClenaghan and didn't disappoint in his just fourth outing for the competition, reaching speeds in excess of 140kph on the Bengaluru wicket.

Quick Single: Mumbai conquer Kolkata to advance to final

The 35-year-old was handed the new ball by skipper Rohit Sharma and faced Chris Lynn at the other end, holder of the highest strike rate of the tournament at 180.9.

But there was no concern from Johnson, with Lynn unable to deal with the pace of the Mumbai quick and able only to muster three runs from the opening over, eventually holing out three balls later against Jasprit Bumrah.

Mumbai bowlers conquer calamitous Knight Riders

"It was nice to get out there and get a game, I've enjoyed it and that's the main thing," Johnson said after the bowling innings.

"I'm just taking this opportunity to have a bit of fun, I've been out of the game for over a year and I honestly didn't think I was going to play IPL this year."

Pietersen and Johnson exchange words // Getty
Pietersen and Johnson exchange words // Getty

Pietersen and Johnson have a long history of conflict on the cricket field, including the 2009 Ashes series in England where the pair nearly came to blows ahead of the opening Test.

In his autobiography, Johnson recalled the incident where Pietersen was intentionally hitting balls into the area the Australian bowlers were warming up.

"I threw a ball back to where he was and I suggested he stop it. Of course, he didn't. When he hit another one towards me I kicked it as far as I could in the other direction. Words were exchanged and KP crossed the line in what he said," Johnson wrote in Resilient.

"He got really personal and I'm not going to dignify his comments by repeating them. The red mist descended and I stormed in his direction with every intention in the world of hitting him.

"This was all being played out in full view of spectators who had arrived early and the media. Stu Clark saw it all happen and came rushing over just as we came together and jumped between us. KP is a big guy, but I was very worked up. 

"Fortunately, Stu is bigger than both of us because it took a bit to convince me not to go through with what I planned. I am so glad Stu was there."

The pair again butted heads – in a metaphorical sense – during the 2013 Boxing Day Test when Pietersen's attempt to rattle the fast bowler backfired.

Johnson and KP's heated exchange

"There was a little kid walking across the sight screen. I knew the kid was there but I let him run in halfway and I pulled out," Pietersen said on BBC radio in late 2015.

"I knew that would make him cross, and then I did it again."

Johnson reacted by hurtling the ball wide of the batsman towards the slips in frustration and a fiery exchange followed.

Johnson lets fly after being forced to abort his delivery stride // Getty
Johnson lets fly after being forced to abort his delivery stride // Getty

"It (the throw) wasn't aimed at him, but it was a bit provocative. He said someone was moving behind the sight screen, but there is an exclusion zone a mile wide behind the wicket and batsmen get so bloody fussy," Johnson recalled in the book.

"I let him know that at the time and when he got a single and came up my end I let him know again. It was pretty heated."

 Johnson and Pietersen come face-to-face in the 2013 Boxing Day Test // Getty
Johnson and Pietersen come face-to-face in the 2013 Boxing Day Test // Getty

With Johnson's spectacular performance with the ball in the knockout match, it creates a selection dilemma for Mumbai if McClenaghan is fit for Sunday's final, something Johnson isn't concerned about.

"Any game for me is a bonus, hopefully Mitch (McClenaghan) can come back, I've made it hard for him but we will have to wait and see," Johnson said.

Johnson retired from one-day international cricket after Australia's successful ICC Cricket World Cup campaign in 2015, before calling an end to his storied 73-Test career later that same year, opting to play purely T20 cricket since.

The speedster will now wait on selection news to see if he will face Steve Smith and the Rising Pune Supergiant in Sunday's Indian Premier League final in Hyderabad.

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