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February 14, 2014
Australia 397 and 288 for 3 (Warner 115, Doolan 89) lead South Africa 206 (de Villiers 91, Johnson 7-68) by 479 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Jarrod Kimber: 'I'd like to be able to say it wasn't about Mitchell Johnson again, but in a way it was'
It has been hard to tell what has done more yawning over the first three days of this Test, the Australian fans staying up into the wee hours to watch it or the chasm between the sides. Consider this: South Africa were bowled out for 206 on the third morning in Centurion. On the same pitch, in the same conditions, David Warner and debutant Alex Doolan then proceeded to put on 205 for Australia's second wicket. It helped that they were not facing Mitchell Johnson.
Graeme Smith and his men left the field on the third afternoon knowing that this match was all but out of reach. Warner's sixth Test century and Doolan's 89 meant Australia's lead had ballooned to 479 by stumps and it would grow on the fourth morning. South Africa can post huge fourth-innings totals - their 414 in Perth in 2008 and their 450 for 7 against India at the Wanderers in December are testament to that - but unless Johnson loses a limb it is impossible to see a way out for them this time.
That he finished off the tail for figures of 7 for 68 was not unexpected. What was a little surprising was the sloppiness of the South Africans in the field, the inability of their fielders to grasp the few chances their bowlers created. Warner was dropped three times and survived a run-out opportunity, and overthrows were a worryingly regular feature of Australia's innings. It was as if South Africa had already given up.
By stumps, the total had moved on to 288 for 3 with Shaun Marsh on 44 and Michael Clarke on 17. The odd ball had stayed low, the odd ball had bounced sharply, but generally it remained a reasonable batting surface. Warner and Doolan certainly enjoyed working on it after they came together at 1 for 1, when Chris Rogers chopped on trying to force Dale Steyn through the off side in a half-hour period Australia had to bat before lunch.
Warner and Doolan put together the highest Australian second-wicket stand in four and a half years, Warner making the most of his lives to strike 13 fours and two sixes and Doolan more gradually working his way into Test match mode. Warner's first stroke of luck came on 26 when he top-edged a hook off Vernon Philander and Dean Elgar, on as a substitute for Steyn, who battled what looked like a leg problem throughout the day, grassed a chance he should have taken at fine leg.
In the next over, Warner was again put down on 27 when he flashed at Morne Morkel and Alviro Petersen at second slip jumped and thrust his hand above his head but was unable to make the chance stick. Perhaps the hardest of the three opportunities arrived on 51, when the ball fizzed high off Warner's edge and Smith at first slip got his hand above his head but despite having two bites, could not keep hold of the chance off Ryan McLaren.
Warner made South Africa pay, typically strong driving along the ground through the off side but equally happy to go in the air, including with a daring and deliberate uppish steer over the cordon off the bowling of Steyn and a muscular drive over the head of the bowler McLaren for six. On 97 he survived an lbw review instigated by Smith from a Morkel ball that pitched outside leg and brought up his century next ball with a crunching cover-drive for four off his 118th delivery.
It continued Warner's trend of kicking teams when they are down, for he has now made three second-innings hundreds from his past six Tests and over the past year has averaged 54.83 in the second innings compared to 25.00 in the first. Eventually South Africa held on to a chance when Warner had 115 - Philander had missed a run-out attempt when he was on 106 - as Warner played for Robin Peterson's non-existent spin and edged to Smith at slip.
The focus then switched to Doolan, very much the junior partner while Warner was at the crease, to see whether he could match Marsh as a centurion in this match and on debut. Doolan was slow to get going but played some classy strokes as he became more comfortable at the crease. His half-century came, fittingly, from a South African misfield and he was especially strong off the back foot, although perhaps his best shot was a crisp cover drive for four off Philander.
However, Doolan was less sure against the slower bowling and on 89 edged behind when JP Duminy skidded one on from around the wicket. Doolan chastised himself as he walked off, knowing a debut hundred was there for the taking, but his 154-ball innings had certainly shown the Australian selectors that he was up to the task in Test cricket, albeit with the buffer of a hefty lead already in place when he walked to the crease.
The reason for that was that Johnson had continued to torment South Africa on the third morning. Again AB de Villiers was the only batsman who seemed able to match it with him but eventually he too succumbed, albeit to a slower ball rather than Johnson's pace, and fell short of a century. The day began with Peterson fending a catch to slip off a fast, accurate Johnson bouncer and a rapid end seemed nigh until Philander gave de Villiers some help in a 49-run stand.
That partnership ended with a canny review from Clarke when Lyon came around the wicket and managed to pitch the ball in line and straighten it enough to have Philander lbw for 15. Meanwhile, de Villiers was playing just as assuredly as ever and seemed destined for a century when he misjudged a drive and was well caught by Warner at mid-off for 91.
The end arrived when Morkel edged another excellent bouncer behind to leave Johnson with the figures of 7 for 68, his third haul of at least seven wickets in Test cricket. The way the South Africans struggled to handle his pace, it might not be his last on this tour. Or even in this match.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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