DURBAN // Three wickets each from Australia's Mitchell Johnson and Andrew McDonald left South Africa tottering at 138-7 at close after the second day's play yesterday. It was Johnson who set the tone with two wickets in his first over and also left the Proteas skipper Graeme Smith and the rock solid Jacques Kallis battered and bruised with two brutal balls.
The paceman removed Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla within three deliveries in a fiery start to the innings after the hosts packed off the Australians cheaply in the morning. From 303-4, the visitors were bowled out for 352. However, Johnson's twin strike followed immediately by Ben Hilfenhaus claiming the wicket of AB de Villiers in his third over saw the home side slump to 6-3. That then became 62-4 just before tea and with Kallis retiring hurt as Johnson returned to bowl out Mark Boucher with the final delivery.
Jean Paul Duminy (73 not out) was the only batsman to put up with any resistance. Having been struck on the jaw, Kallis returned to bail out the tottering ship only to snick a catch off McDonald to the Australian captain Ricky Ponting. On the either side of that wicket, McDonald got past the defence of Paul Harris and Mornie Morkel. Dale Steyn was giving company to Duminy when bad light stopped play.
Earlier, Johnson gave the South Africans very little breathing space after they had their tails up in the aftermath of claiming the visitors' last six wickets for a miserly 23 runs. He struck with just the third ball of the innings when McKenzie found a short delivery outside off stump too hard not to play and he tickled the ball through to Brad Haddin for a duck. Two balls later, a fine inswinging delivery accounted for Amla leg before wicket with umpire Asad Rauf having no doubt in sending the South African No 3 on his way.
The batsman opted to refer the decision, which proved in vain as Steve Bucknor confirmed the call, meaning Amla too departed without troubling the scorers. In Johnson's next over, Smith was hit plush on the right hand as he tried to fend off a short delivery on the leg side and was forced to retire hurt for two - the home captain was later confirmed to have broken a little finger. De Villiers was next to go when Hilfenhaus managed to get a good length delivery to cut back sharply, trapping the batsman lbw for three as the hosts slumped into even deeper trouble.
But Duminy and Kallis then consolidated, bringing up the 50-run stand in just under 18 overs, before the South African all-rounder was knocked down with a bloody chin by Johnson. The situation was in contrast to the wet morning when Australia lost their last five wickets for the addition of four runs with only Michael Hussey completing his half-century. Makhaya Ntini took two wickets in as many deliveries after Steyn and Morne Morkel had done the hard work early on with their disciplined line and length frustrating the visitors. Steyn finished with three wickets while Ntini, Kallis and Harris took two each.
* With agencies