Centurion, South Africa: A breathtaking burst of fast bowling by Mitchell Johnson had top-ranked South Africa 140-6 and staggering in reply to Australia's first-innings 397 after the second day of the first test on Thursday.
Johnson ripped out four South Africans, with captain Graeme Smith and Faf du Plessis falling to near-unplayable short-pitched deliveries from the left-arm quick at SuperSport Park. South Africa was 257 behind when rain ended play early.
After Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith both made centuries for Australia, Johnson turned the screw at one of the home team's favorite grounds with his blistering first spell of 3-10 in four overs, carrying his red-hot Ashes form to South Africa.
He finished with 4-51 and more than realized all the pre-series predictions that he would be the biggest weapon in Australia's quest to follow up on its 5-0 whitewash of England by ending South Africa's five-year unbeaten test run.
Smith had pulled the first delivery of the reply through midwicket for four off Ryan Harris, but the fourth delivery of the series from Johnson was fast and bounced head-high. Smith hit a looping catch up in the air for slip Marsh to take at a dive after running back. Smith was out for 10.
Johnson's delivery to rip out new South Africa No. 4 Du Plessis for 3 was even better. Clocked at around 150 kilometers per hour, it reared at the batsman's throat and Du Plessis could only defend himself and edge to Aussie captain Michael Clarke in the slips.
Johnson forced another edge off a careless shot from Alviro Petersen who went for 2. Hashim Amla briefly thwarted the attack before a successful review by the Australians sent him back lbw for 17 off Peter Siddle for 43-4.
Johnson also took a diving one-handed catch running backward to give spinner Nathan Lyon his wicket and break South Africa's one meaningful partnership, of 67 between AB de Villiers and JP Duminy. Returning to bowling, he was simply too fast for Ryan McLaren with a full, straight delivery.
At stumps, De Villiers was 52 not out and holding South Africa's fragile innings together, still short of avoiding the follow-on at Centurion, where the Proteas have lost just one of their 18 previous tests.
Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith both made centuries with the bat during Australia's innings — Marsh made a career-best 148 and Smith 100. Despite breaking their 233-run partnership early on the second day, South Africa's 6-100 to end the Aussie innings was almost irrelevant.