South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 2nd day February 13, 2014

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

Jarrod Kimber's Report: You can't handle a force of nature

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

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  • ESPN on February 15, 2014, 22:02 GMT

    Amazing performance from Australia. I look forward to seeing if South Africa can learn and fight back. I hope so, being a Saffa!

  • Mudasir on February 15, 2014, 11:20 GMT

    no doubt ausies are playing better than sa almost all sesions nd have good edge this time but sa is known for fight back which they has done many times in past, unless amla or dewlvers are there sa is still is match....

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2014, 6:13 GMT

    Hey Quinton Jacobs, against india SA was playing against the worst test bowling attack one can have.. Here, it is Magnificent Mitch. .

  • Anand on February 14, 2014, 20:49 GMT

    ModernUmpiresPls thanks. Steyn consistently bowls at 144+ so maybe he has slowed down to mid-130s becoz of the stomach illness. MJ's successfully obviously has a lot more to do than just speed - even Shami bowls the odd 145. It is the consistent speed and the mortally threatening bounce employed successfully. It intrigues me and many others I am sure to no end - a very good thing for test cricket! What I really want is a Steyn comeback a la the spell of Cape Town 2011 against Sachin and India.

  • Dummy on February 14, 2014, 11:06 GMT

    How is this match anywhere near even scottstevo? We are miles ahead here. This is gonna end exactly the same way the first 2 ashes tests did. We bat til we lead by 500. Then bowl them out for 200 depending on weather ofc

  • Graham on February 14, 2014, 10:47 GMT

    Ashokdmightyindian ; Please read my post again - I have said none of what you have accused me of saying. I was just correcting a previous post and pointing out this team is quite different from when we tour India. I'm not into making any predictions, I just comment on what has occured. I would have thought no one in this side would be ashamed of thinking they can win, I reckon they went to South Africa thinking they could win when so many posters said they couldnt - Do you think they would be ashamed of having those feelings now?

  • Scott on February 14, 2014, 10:42 GMT

    @ModernUmpiresPlz, I know. That's 4 that have chopped on out of Steyn's 5 wickets. We're gifting them to him; and he's way too good to keep giving freebies away to him. It fires him up. That first little spell of his was the first hostile spell from him - and it looked like he might've strained himself in doing so! Think he's trying to compete with Johnson for hostility - you bet your ball sack he is! Still so evenly poised here. The pitch is a bit up and down; and we know our propensity for a disastrous batting collapse! If Aus make 200 in this innings, it's hard to see SA winning it. If they can keep us under that, they'll think they're in with a shout. Doolan has a big chance here to prove he's up to it. He's not my first choice for #3, but I'll be backing him all the way!

  • ZCF on February 14, 2014, 10:29 GMT

    @Greatest_Game I'm pretty sure if JP had the pleasure of facing NZ,PAK&IND at home as well, instead of AUS away plus AUS&ENG at home immediately after that, he would've probably averaged 60+ too!

    Alviro is an opener so no comparison. Remember AB could only average 36(3x100) as an opener after 20 matches(13@home), and had to be dropped down the order for his career to survive. While Alviro averaged 42(5x100) in his first 20 matches as an opener(4@home). I doubt Faf would even average 30 as an opener!

    When Alviro stops succeeding as an opener, then as they did by protecting Rudolph, I expect one of Faf/AB to switch with him and open which is precisely what was done to Ashwell Prince. Not put QdK or anyone in his place. Unless of course there is a pattern to who gets favours that I'm not aware of, since I also seem to recall a certain ailing Shaun Pollock being carried to a milestone something Ntini was denied! CSA made its bed now it must lie in it for as long as Thami doesn't play!!!!

  • Peter on February 14, 2014, 10:28 GMT

    Looks like the Aussies could be the first touring team to win a series in more than a year. Unlike England and India, these two countries could battle for number 1 spot for quite some time. Nothing like vicious head removing bouncers to spark a Test series !

  • John on February 14, 2014, 10:09 GMT

    Australia had a different coaching team in India. Moral was low. The coach did not have the players' respect. The team selection was off. The results would have been much closer with the current setup.

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