South Africa on the ropes
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Morne Morkel (17) stroked four boundaries off Johnson before he miscued Lyon to John Hastings at mid-on to end the innings.
Du Plessis was again the big obstacle for the Australian bowlers four days after he batted through the final day and finished unbeaten on 110 to save the second Test on debut at Adelaide on Monday. He has 266 runs in three innings, and 188 since his last dismissal, after earning his call up when JP Duminy was injured in a training accident after the opening day of the first Test at Brisbane.
He batted for seven hours in his second innings in Adelaide and was unbeaten again in 3 hours, 15 minutes on Friday, facing 142 balls and hitting 12 boundaries after going to the crease with his team reeling at 67-5 in the 28th over.
The South Africans started the Test positively after winning the toss and had only lost skipper Graeme Smith (16) as they progressed to 61-1 before Starc struck twice to make it 63-3 at lunch when he bowled opener Alviro Peterson (30) and Jacques Kallis (2) with swinging deliveries.
Hashim Amla (11) had a reprieve five balls after lunch when Cowan put down a regulation chance off Hastings' bowling. But he was out next over, without adding to his score, when he was run out at the striker's end by David Warner's direct hit.
Hastings got a ball to swing out and late in his next over and picked up his first Test wicket when AB de Villiers (4) edged to Clarke at slip and South Africa slumped to 67-5.
Dean Elgar faced 12 balls on debut before attempting to pull a sharply rising ball from Johnson and top-edging down leg side to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, and Lyon ended the seventh-wicket stand when he had Peterson caught behind while attempting a cut shot.