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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Johnson completes destruction of South Africa, then Warner & Doolan build huge lead: T1D3

Australia 397 & 3/288 (69ov, Warner 115/ 151b/2x6 13x4, Doolan 89/154b/1x6 12x4, Marsh 44*) lead South Africa 206 (61.1ov, deVilliers 91/148b/2x6 10x4, Duminy 25, Johnson 17.1-1-68-7) by 479 runs with 7 2nd inns wkts in hand; T1/3 D3/5 at Centurion.

Another commanding performance by Mitchell Johnson with the ball gave David Warner and Alex Doolan an  opportunity to bat South Africa out of the Test and set up a win for Australia. By adding 205 for the second wicket they have almost certainly done the former and, with the pitch playing unevenly, will quite likely, weather permitting, achieve the latter objective.

South Africa's modest first innings was held together by AB deVilliers, the only one of the team to play Johnson with any consistent confidence, competence and courage. Without him the Proteas would not have got anywhere near the follow on (even though Michael Clarke ould probably not have enforced it). As it was 191 behind and to bat last was a very poor look.

When Australia batted again an early wicket to Dale Steyn was a reality check of sorts, but Warner, cautiously  pugnacious (by his standards) kept the score moving while Doolan, as Tom Moody put it on TV,  moved in his partner's slipstream. Well as Warner batted he was aided and abetted by some poor fielding. Doolan had looked quite good in making 27 in the first innings, and took his match aggregate beyond 100 with a mature looking second knock.

In the face of this accumulation the South Africa attack dropped a couple of gears. The TV broadcaster showed a graph of their seamers which revealed that only 5% of their combined deliveries were on the wicket. The pitch map looked as if it had been spattered with grapeshot. Surely it hasn't always been thus?

While it's hard to conceive South Africa winning from here, the recollection of the 2012 Adelaide Test where Faf du Plessis led a doughty rearguard action which secured a draw, is a reminder of the home team's potential. On that occasion Australia were a bowler short because of injury. So far in this match the only injuries have occurred have been to Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. What if Johnson was incapacitated? Interesting thought ...and worrying prospect. Yet on the evidence of D3 it's hard to see this Centurion pitch holding up as well as the 2012 Adelaide one did.

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