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Australia, unstoppable Johnson crush top-ranked South Africa by 281 runs in 1st test

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CENTURION, South Africa - Australia crushed South Africa in the first test on Saturday, dominating the top-ranked team in every department and at one of its favourite grounds in a 281-run rout.

Unstoppable fast bowler Mitchell Johnson took 12 of Australia's 20 wickets for career-best match figures, three Australian batsmen made centuries against a pace attack featuring the two top-ranked test bowlers, and the Aussie fielders caught everything that came near them in an all-around display that rivalled their whitewash of England in the Ashes.

This was one of South Africa's most humbling defeats in the five years it's gone unbeaten in test series.

"You're playing the No. 1 team in the world. The only way to beat them is to be at your best," Australia captain Michael Clarke said.

By becoming the first team to beat South Africa at SuperSport Park in 14 years, and only the second team ever, Australia also struck a resounding psychological blow for the remainder of the three-match series as Clarke and Johnson promised they would get even better in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

"They outplayed us in this game. We've got to be man enough to admit that," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said, adding his team needed to "reflect" on the lopsided defeat.

While Johnson ripped out seven South African batsmen in the first innings and five in the second to bowl the home team out for timid scores of 206 and 200, he also left them bruised after a succession of brutal short-pitched deliveries, some up at a blistering 150 kph.

His first delivery to Hashim Amla on Saturday hit him square on the grill of the helmet. He later drew blood after a crunching blow to the side of Ryan McLaren's helmet.

"We stopped them in their tracks," Johnson said, adding the fear factor was "a big part" of his game.

Bowling fast and often short, and too fast for the South Africans to handle on a tricky surface anyway, the left-arm Johnson sent back openers Alviro Petersen and Smith inside four overs after Australia declared its second innings on 290-4 early on the fourth day. The tourists had more than enough runs after setting South Africa a never-reached victory target of 482.

Johnson also got JP Duminy just before tea. For good measure, he clattered a low bouncer into McLaren's helmet, then blasted the allrounder out, too, and removed AB de Villiers, South Africa's one batsman to resist him for any length of time, for his five wickets.

De Villiers made 91 and 48 in the two innings and was the only South African to score more than 40 in the test against Johnson's pace.

"There's no doubt he was the difference in this game," Smith said of Johnson. "He's in form and he's hot."

In contrast to South Africa's struggles, Shaun Marsh, Steve Smith and David Warner all made centuries and Alex Doolan hit 89 on debut in the second innings as South Africa's quicks melted away.

Marsh hit a career-best 148 in the first innings as Australia pounced on South Africa's indecision at the toss. Smith made 100, his fourth century in seven tests. In the second innings, Warner's power-packed 115 put Australia miles ahead by the third day.

The red-hot Johnson was unplayable and Doolan snapped up two brilliant reaction catches at short leg to get rid of Smith and Duminy on the last day in a slick Australian fielding effort, ensuring the team ranked No. 3 but moving up the rankings rapidly was superior everywhere at SuperSport Park.

"I think our attitude is outstanding at the moment," Clarke said. "I don't know what South Africa is feeling right now."

___

Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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