Fired-up Johnson bullies South Africa
South Africa 140 for 6 (de Villiers 53*, Johnson 4-52) trail Australia 397 (Marsh 148, Smith 100, Steyn 4-78) by 257 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
If anyone thought Mitchell Johnson's Ashes campaign was a one-off, they had better think again. It took Johnson only four balls to make his impact felt in South Africa. The only question was who felt it more acutely, Graeme Smith, the first of three wickets in Johnson's new ball spell, or AB de Villiers, who survived until stumps but suffered a nasty blow to the forearm when he had the temerity to attempt a pull off Johnson late in the afternoon.
Johnson finished the day with four wickets and his team-mates chipped in with two more to leave South Africa looking almost as shot as England did at times during the Ashes. The notable exception was de Villiers, who showed why he is the No.1 Test batsman in the world. By the time rain ended the day's proceedings with half an hour to play, de Villiers had reached 52 and was alongside Robin Peterson, who was on 10, and at 140 for 6 South Africa still trailed by 257 runs.
The batsmen did not need to be asked twice to leave the field. The last ball before the rain arrived was a ripsnorting bouncer from Johnson that was so accurate that Peterson did well to get bat to ball to protect himself, and he was lucky that it lobbed just safely wide of second slip. In Johnson's previous over he had delivered to de Villiers what may not quite have been the broken, ah, arm that Michael Clarke promised James Anderson in Brisbane, but it was close.
Generally though, de Villiers handled Johnson far better than any of his team-mates. His movements were quick and so was his decision-making. He scored 28 runs off the 35 balls he faced from Johnson, driving him for a couple of boundaries but most notably lifting him off his hips over fine leg for six, a remarkable shot given that at the time South Africa were languishing at 45 for 4. He reached his half-century late in the day, equalling the all-time record of fifty-plus scores in 11 consecutive Tests.
Other than de Villiers, there was little else to celebrate for South Africa. The tone for their innings was set when Johnson quickly reacquainted himself with Smith, whose hands he has broken twice in the past. This time he rapped Smith on the glove with the fourth ball of his first over, a magnificent bouncer that resulted in a looping lob over the cordon that was taken by Shaun Marsh running back from slip.
That left South Africa at 11 for 1 but it was to become 15 for 2 in the sixth over of the innings when Johnson added the wicket of Alviro Petersen. Petersen had little idea of how to handle Johnson's pace and flashed well wide of off to tickle a catch through to Brad Haddin for 2. In Johnson's next over he struck with another outstanding short ball that Faf du Plessis tried to fend, but succeeded only in edging off the handle of his bat, such was his struggle to get the bat up in time, to slip.
Jacques Kallis might have been sitting at home and congratulating himself on his decision to retire when he did, given the threat Johnson posed over and over again. Hashim Amla and de Villiers did their best to recover but Amla was unable to get more than a start and on 17 he was lbw to Peter Siddle, who nipped the ball back in and had Aleem Dar's not-out decision overturned on review.
JP Duminy joined de Villiers for a 67-run stand that ended when Duminy, on 25, tried to lift Nathan Lyon over the infield but miscued and was athletically taken by Johnson running back and jumping from mid-off. The final wicket of the day came when Johnson's pace was far too severe for Ryan McLaren, who lost his off stump when he left an enormous gap between bat and pad.
Until they had to bat themselves, the South Africans could have been relatively happy with the day's play, for they claimed the last six Australian wickets for the addition of 100 runs and kept Australia below 400. Steven Smith joined Marsh as a Centurion centurion but Dale Steyn finished with 4 for 78 as the South Africans did their best to fight their way back into the match.
Marsh and Smith found the going slow - Smith spent more than an hour in the nineties before he brought up his third century from his past four Tests with a nudge off leg from his 211th delivery. However, he was unable to add to that and was caught at second slip pushing at McLaren for exactly 100, ending the 233-run stand with Marsh that began shortly after lunch on day one.
Marsh added 26 to his overnight score before he edged Vernon Philander to slip on 148. Between those two breakthroughs Haddin also fell lbw for a duck trying to sweep Peterson, and South Africa might have felt they had a chance to run through the tail. But Johnson (33) and Ryan Harris (19) contributed some valuable runs before Steyn finished off the task, keeping Australia to 397.
It was hardly the kind of total South Africa wanted from Australia when they sent them in but given the way Marsh and Smith batted it was a good counter-punch. But as Johnson showed later in the day, everything is relative.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here