Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson is on a war path and even his teammates are feeling the pinch.
All-rounder Steve Smith was left nursing a sore finger on Wednesday after copping a rising Johnson delivery during training at the WACA Ground.
Smith was able to shake off the hit and complete the session, but opener David Warner wasn’t so lucky last year when he fractured his thumb after failing to deal with a Johnson sizzler.
Johnson doesn’t like to see his teammates get hurt, but the express paceman isn’t willing to go easy on them at training either.
And it will be South Africa’s turn to feel the heat on Friday when the two teams lock horns in the first one-dayer at the WACA.
“I always go hard in the nets and try to make it as realistic as possible without trying to kill the batsmen,” Johnson said ahead of the five-match series.
“I might not have said sorry (to Smith), but I just made sure he’s ok.
“I did get Davie Warner here a couple of years ago and felt pretty bad about it.
“I’m not intending to hurt the batters.
“When I do bowl my short ball, I am trying to practise, but I am not trying to knock their heads off.”
Johnson himself is carrying a finger injury that occurred during a mistimed catching attempt before the 2-0 Test series loss to Pakistan.
The 33-year-old isn’t sure whether the damage to his left index finger is ligament or bone-related, but he’s confident it won’t hamper him this summer.
“I’m able to get through and be pain free at the moment … so no dramas there,” Johnson said.
The pace battle between Johnson and South African Dale Steyn will be one of the major drawcards on what’s expected to be a bouncy WACA deck.
Steyn is yet to forgive Australian skipper Michael Clarke for labelling him a cheat earlier this year, and Proteas paceman Vernon Philander expects his teammate to be fired up.
“Hopefully he’s angry on day one,” Philander said.
“He’s psyched up for this, and so are we all.
“Every now and then you say something to the opposition that irritates them.
“Obviously the guys said something to him that irritated him. He’s going to be out in full flight.”
Johnson said the competitive nature of both teams should ensure yet another heated affair.
“Yeah, there’s always tension between the two sides,” Johnson said.
“It’s probably going to be fiery again.
“But in the end we’re going to play them on skill. That’s what we’re about.
“We want to beat them with bat and ball. Whatever else happens, it happens out in the middle.”