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Unstoppable Australia leads No. 1 South Africa by 479 after Johnson's 7-68 and Warner century

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CENTURION, South Africa - David Warner blazed Australia's third century in three days after fast bowler Mitchell Johnson took 7-68, ensuring the tourists had complete control over a wilting South Africa in the first test Friday.

Warner's 115 off 151 balls with 13 fours and two sixes was almost as blisteringly quick as Johnson's bowling as Australia raced to 288-3 in its second innings at stumps on the third day for a huge lead of 479.

After Johnson ripped out the remains of South Africa to reduce the top-ranked team to 206 in its first innings in the morning, Warner and Alex Doolan (89) combined for a 205-run partnership in the afternoon, Australia's second double-century stand of the game.

Doolan just missed out on a hundred on debut in the closest thing to disappointment for Australia in a dominating start to this series following its total dominance of the Ashes.

Warner was dropped three times — and twice in the 20s — to compound South Africa's problems as the fielding unraveled for the No. 1 test team along with its bowling and batting.

Asked how many times he'd been given so many chances in an innings, Warner replied: "Probably backyard cricket, really."

But at SuperSport Park, No. 3 Australia is closing in on becoming the first team to beat South Africa in a test at the ground in 14 years, and only the second team ever.

"Shucks we're in a bit of trouble," South Africa's AB de Villiers said. "There's only one team playing this test match at the moment and that's not us."

De Villiers said the South African fielding was at times "almost embarrassing" after substitute fielder Dean Elgar dropped a regulation chance at fine leg, Alviro Petersen missed one at second slip and captain Graeme Smith put another Warner opportunity down at first slip.

After South Africa was 140-6 overnight, Johnson continued the carnage with three wickets in the morning to go with his four on the second day, with the home team rolled out early on.

As he was on Thursday — and all through the Ashes — Johnson was hostile as he removed Robin Peterson, De Villiers and last-man Morne Morkel. England's main destroyer with 37 wickets in five tests, Johnson lived up to that fierce reputation with seven wickets in his first bowl of this much-hyped series from 17.1 brutal and at times unplayable overs.

He also has a wearing pitch to use when South Africa tries to save the test.

"With his pace and accuracy at the moment, he's on top of his game," Warner said of Johnson. "He's definitely going to be hard to stop."

De Villiers' 91 was South Africa's only resistance against Johnson.

Australia lost opener Chris Rogers to speedster Dale Steyn in the second over of its second innings to be 1-1 and 18-1 at lunch, but the tourists surged way ahead after that minor blip through Warner's and Doolan's punishing partnership.

"We've got to play with freedom. We've got to play with intent. That's the way we play," Warner said after an 11th test hundred for the left-handed opener.

Australia was in position to inflict on South Africa a second defeat at the Centurion ground in 18 tests, and the first since 2000, having scored 397 batting first after being put in by South Africa captain Smith, with a career-best 148 from Shaun Marsh and 100 from Steve Smith.

In his second over on Friday, left-arm quick Johnson began with a lifting delivery to remove Peterson, caught in the slips, for 10. He had De Villiers caught at mid-off by a jumping Warner, and was way too fast for tailender Morkel, who edged his first ball, another fierce short-pitched one, to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Offspinner Nathan Lyon returned 2-38 and Peter Siddle had 1-33 but the innings was all about Johnson. Clearly Australia's fiercest weapon against England, Johnson at full speed was also unreadable by the South Africans.

He removed Smith and Faf du Plessis to almost unplayable deliveries on Thursday and Peterson and Morkel were rocked by more of the short stuff on the third day. De Villiers stood alone and hit 10 fours and two sixes, with South Africa's next best score a 25 by JP Duminy.

Johnson's unstoppable current form was underlined as Warner and Doolan had little problem with South Africa's pace attack, smashing 25 fours and three sixes between them to lead by nearly 500 with seven wickets in hand and two days still to play.

Marsh was 44 not out and captain Michael Clarke 17 not out.

___

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

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