Johnson may get Twenty20 batting promotion
Ricky Ponting claims he was only joking when he told reporters that tailender Mitchell Johnson would open the batting in Friday's Twenty20 match against South Africa.
But the Australian captain was serious when he said the fast-bowling all-rounder needed to be prepared to be dropped into the middle order if the game's tactics demanded such a ploy at the Wanderers ground.
Johnson's clean hitting and aggression helped him post 96 not out in the Johannesburg Test last month and then an unbeaten 123 in last week's Cape Town Test.
Ponting said his paceman upset the rhythm of the South African bowlers purely through being a leftie.
"We don't really know yet," Ponting said of shifting Johnson in the order. "All our batting order floats in a Twenty20 game anyway. You are after flexibility.
"You want guys to be able to change their own games to fit into their different situation and circumstances in the team.
"We've known for a long time Mitch is more than capable of taking any bowler down at any time."
Johnson hit two fours and three sixes in an over bowled by South Africa spinner Paul Harris in the first Test in Johannesburg. His maiden Test century last week came off just 86 balls.
"He's someone who could definitely float up and down the order for us," Ponting said.
"The other thing is that left-handed/right-handed combinations in 20-over cricket play a pretty big part as well. It just gives the bowlers no opportunity to settle in and puts extra pressure on their variations and things.
"That's where his going up and down the order could probably work most effectively."
Australia named a 16-man squad for their Twenty20 clashes on Friday and Sunday (at Centurion). Ultra-attacking batsman David Warner and lively quick Shane Harwood are certain to play after being flown over for the Twenty20 series.
"Even for them it probably makes it pretty difficult as well, just coming in for a few days and then playing two games," Ponting said. "And the game is so hit and miss, anyway, it's sometimes quite hard to turn up and just make an impact straight away.
"It's about time we started looking ahead to the Twenty20 World Cup [in England in June] as well, and started to try to pencil in what we think is going to be our best team for that.
"There's no other opportunities to play before then. But the difficulty with that right now is we've got a lot of guys who are coming back from injury who will probably go back in [to the side]."
Ponting nominated paceman Brett Lee and all-rounders Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson as "probably walk-up starters" for the Twenty20 World Cup.