KFC BBL|12: Heat’s ‘Magic’ Spencer Johnson finds new life as death bowler

Spencer Johnson is enjoying his baptism of fire in the KFC BBL and, after successfully navigating some frightening circumstances, is developing a reputation as a dependable ‘death’ bowler. In his fourth game, Brisbane Heat captain Usman Khawaja tossed him the ball for the last over with globe-trotting T20 power-hitter Tim David (39 off 21) at the other end, needing 18 to win.

Spencer Johnson gave up just five points

Marcus Stoinis and the Melbourne Stars needed 14 runs off Spencer Johnson’s last over, and he only gave up nine. “You have to desire the ball (in such circumstances),” Spencer Johnson told the Unplayable Podcast, as he raced in to deliver the last ball to Stoinis. “As a fast bowler, you always want the ball in your hand and the game in your hands.” Despite keeping his nerve against two of the game’s most-known finishes, Johnson does not consider himself a final-over expert.

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“I wouldn’t call myself a ‘death bowler,'” Spencer Johnson told the Unplayable Podcast. It’s something I’ve certainly been working on and aiming to accomplish to be thrown the ball in the hard overs which I’m getting here, which is very great. But it’s something I’m absolutely working on.” The intensity was mounting in the latter moments of the Heat-Stars game on Sunday, as it looked like Stoinis was leading the Stars to an unexpected win.

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However, Johnson, who could be seen on the broadcast engaging in some back-and-forth with the Australia allrounder, revealed that the interaction acted as fuel for his own performance. Big Stony has a presence,” Johnson added. “He’s a good-looking dude. And he smells great. I simply had to find something because of the way he was parading about, and I had to puff my chest up as well.” Although his sample size is limited, Johnson’s numbers from his five BBL games have fans wondering why the 27-year-old has waited so long to play in the tournament.

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Only Jhye Richardson (51.8%) has a better dot ball percentage than Spencer Johnson among the players who have bowled at least 100 deliveries in BBL|12 (50.9 percent). And Spencer Johnson’s economy rate in death overs (16-20) of 7.77 has him comfortably in the top half of the league. But Spencer Johnson’s performance, which has helped propel the Heat to the finals, did not come overnight. Despite being committed for numerous seasons, the Adelaide Strikers released the South Australian native (who also has a South Australia contract).

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Johnson, who grew up idolizing Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson, had been sidelined for more than two years in his early 20s due to ankle stress fractures. Johnson got aware of Queensland’s new T20 Max tournament through cricket.com.au and formed a plan to be part to have “a fresh pair of eyes on me and show Queensland what I can do”.

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A friend and former teammate Leigh Drennan proved to be the ideal link, and the towering left-armer soon joined Redlands, Marnus Labuschagne’s home club. After finishing as the league’s most economical fast bowler in his rookie season, Johnson feels Labuschagne deserves credit for landing him the Heat job. “It was fun playing with Marnus,” Spencer Johnson stated. “And then I guess Marn got in the coaches’ ears up here and said, ‘yes, I just played with him. “I believe we need to get him up.”

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