The past year has been a steep learning curve for Mitchell Johnson, who made his Test debut last November and 14 months later finds himself leading Australia's attack. When the third Test starts in Sydney on Saturday, Johnson will be the spearhead in a bowling group featuring Peter Siddle and Nathan Hauritz in their fourth Tests and a debutant - either Doug Bollinger or Ben Hilfenhaus.
It is a vastly different role for Johnson, who entered the summer as the third fast man behind Brett Lee and Stuart Clark. However, Clark has had surgery on his troublesome right elbow and Lee's left foot also requires an operation, which has left Johnson as the senior bowler in what will be his 18th Test.
Australia's challenge is to come back from the disappointment of their first home series loss in 16 years to aim for victory in the dead rubber at the SCG. Johnson said he hoped the injection of youth into the squad - the allrounder Andrew McDonald is also set to debut - would lift the team.
"I still think we're a very strong side, even though we've got a lot of young guys in the team," Johnson said after Australia arrived in Sydney. "You've got Dougie Bollinger, Andrew McDonald, these guys, Ben Hilfenhaus, they're going to come into the side with a lot of bubble. I'm still backing our team. We're going to keep positive and do our best in Sydney."
Australia have not suffered a whitewash in a Test series at home since the 19th century and if they do concede the Sydney match they will also hand over the No. 1 Test ranking to South Africa. Johnson said his overwhelming feeling after the MCG loss was shock, although he said South Africa had thoroughly deserved their success.
"I can't speak for the whole team," he said. "I guess yesterday afternoon I was in a little bit of shock after coming off the field. You go out there and you are trying to do your best for your country and everyone in the team is trying to do their best. No one likes losing.
"I guess to be two-nil down in the series, it has come as a little bit of a disappointment for us. But South Africa are a very, very strong side. They are number two in the world so I guess they outplayed us and they deserve every reward that they get."