Johnson sets up win for Australians
Australians 236 and 214 for 3 (Watson 77, Marsh 73*) beat South Africa A 183 and 264 (Peterson 103, Tsolekile 58, Johnson 5-74) by seven wickets
The Australians won their tour match in Potchefstroom with four sessions to spare but ticked most of the boxes they wanted to tick ahead of next week's first Test. Another day's play could have been a useful tune-up before the team heads to Cape Town, but there were only a few men who failed to make the most of the game.
Mitchell Johnson showed signs of his best form with a nine-wicket match-haul, Shane Watson muscled his way to 77 in the second innings, Shaun Marsh scored a pair of half-centuries, Peter Siddle made a strong case for Test selection, Michael Clarke was fluent in his first-innings 76 and Nathan Lyon improved as the match went on.
But Phillip Hughes and Ricky Ponting would have wanted more time in the middle and Trent Copeland's lack of penetration may have put him in danger of losing his spot. However, a seven-wicket victory was an encouraging result for the Australians, who were set 212 to win on the third day, after Johnson's five-wicket haul in the second innings, and they got there with ease.
The pitch had calmed down a little after the barrage of bouncers batsmen received on the first two days. Watson mauled the South Africa A bowling and Marsh played a typically level-headed innings to finish unbeaten on 73, while Brad Haddin was promoted up the order to get some time at the crease and he was not out on 6 when the winning runs arrived.
Hughes was out for 19, caught at slip off Wayne Parnell, before Watson and Marsh combined for an 84-run stand. Watson brought up his half-century with a solid clip off his pads for four, off his 53rd ball, and he pulled and drove straight with power.
Eventually he was caught behind off Ryan McLaren for 77 from 73 balls, bottom-edging an attempted pull, and he walked after the umpire initially gave him not out. Marsh continued to score with ease, driving through gaps at cover and cutting well, while Ponting gradually found his rhythm.
Especially encouraging for the Australians was Ponting's flat pull for six off the quick young bowler Marchant de Lange. The ball thudded into the advertising boards with a loud crash, and it was reminiscent of Ponting at his best, when the pull and hook were his signature moves.
However, on 29 Ponting lofted a catch to mid-on off the spin of Robin Peterson, with the Australians 16 runs from victory. The target of 212 had been confirmed during a disappointing morning session for South Africa A, whose lower order couldn't handle the pace of Johnson.
The hosts lost their last four wickets for 59 on the final morning, Johnson picking up three and Peter Siddle one. A 25-run final-wicket stand between de Lange and Vernon Philander frustrated the Australians, until Siddle bowled de Lange for 15 to end the innings at 264.
Johnson finished with 5 for 74, starting with a wicket in the morning's second over when McLaren steered a catch to point. In Johnson's next over he trapped Wayne Parnell lbw, and Peterson departed soon afterwards, bowled for 19 when a fast Johnson delivery sent two of his stumps cartwheeling.
It completed a brilliant game for Johnson, who ended up with match figures of 9 for 112. And after his success in South Africa last time, Johnson was the one man the Australians wanted to hit his straps before the first Test in Cape Town.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo