Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth November 29, 2012

Kallis strives to play in Ponting farewell

The Perth Test will be the last of Ricky Ponting's career, and South Africa's veteran Jacques Kallis is battling to be fit for it

Unless something as dramatic as Jacques Kallis calling time on his career happens, the Perth Test will be largely about Ricky Ponting. Whether South Africa win a second consecutive series in Australia and keep their No. 1 Test ranking, or whether Michael Clarke's team wrests it from them, the cricket world will be captivated by Ponting's farewell.

The South African team was too. They arrived at the WACA ground when Ponting was making his announcement, and although they suspected it was going to happen, they were in some awe at being so close to it. "Shame," said AB de Villiers in typical South African fashion, while Graeme Smith showed genuine concern when he heard Michael Clarke almost broke down during his press conference.

Reporters held back from asking Smith about his record of being around when major opposition players retire but they managed to get some of his thoughts. "Initially it was a bit of a shock," Smith said, conveying a popular sentiment. "I played a lot against Ricky and he is certainly the most competitive man I think I have ever played against. The way he played the game, and the intensity he played the game in, is a credit to him. He has always represented Australia with a lot of dignity and a lot of skill."

Ponting's last chance to do that will be against South Africa in a match that will decide the No.1 ranking. Graeme Smith's team knows the power something like a retirement can have. They used the sudden departure of Mark Boucher, who was badly injured in England before his final Test series began, as added motivation on that tour earlier this year.

In victory, South Africa dedicated a large portion of their ascension to No.1 to Boucher. Now that they have the title, they do not want to give it up without a heck of a fight, and one of their most resilient fighters has been their longest serving soldier - Jacques Kallis.

Even during the 3.3 overs he bowled before limping off Adelaide Oval, Kallis' impact was significant: he dismissed Ed Cowan and Ponting. Kallis also batted through pain in both innings because his contribution was needed to save the match. His 58 and 46, innings that used up more than four hours, proved that his career is a long way from needing the same resuscitation. It would not have been surprising had Ponting watched that effort and wondered how a man who walked almost the same road as he did was able to continue walking so confidently.

Kallis made his Test debut the week after Ponting did in December 1995. He has played ten fewer Tests than Ponting, has 425 fewer runs but three hundreds more. While Ponting has one more opportunity to add to those numbers, Kallis should have several more. Like Ponting, Kallis said he would remain committed to playing international cricket for as long as his body allows and he can contribute. Unlike Ponting, it is Kallis' fitness rather his form that threatens his future.

For the third time in as many tours in 2012, Kallis is battling injury. His current hamstring strain could deny him his own last - a last Test in Australia. It's unlikely Kallis will return in 2016, when South Africa are due to tour next, and before this series he said he would treasure being successful for a second time in Australia.

Kallis has done everything he can to be able to play in Perth, even if only as a batsman, although he will have to field. "We don't intend on playing the game with ten men so we won't take the decision lightly," Smith said, confirming Kallis will bat at No. 4 if picked. "If he is not fit we will look to have someone playing his role in the game but ideally, if he is fit, we'd like to have him playing."

Kallis knows how important he is to the side and has spent hours with physiotherapist Brandon Jackson to try and recover. He has followed the requirements for rest and if he remains in any pain, he isn't showing it. He wants to play in Perth almost more than South Africa want him to. "Mentally we know that he is hungry to play and he has shown that in the way that he has gone about his rehab," Smith said. "He wants to get on the park and perform."

So does Ponting, but he thinks after Tuesday he no longer deserves to. That realisation alone brought tears to grown men's eyes. And then the air lightened a bit, as it does when these things happen. By the time the Australians had left, South Africa were training in sunshine with a strong wind blowing. In the second net was Kallis.

He moved with ease. He got forward to defend with the grace of a construction vehicle and the determination of a whole fleet. He walked without difficulty, he bent down, he got back up, he carried on. He was struck on the hand by a net bowler and casually wrung it out before continuing. He was in the zone.

When he finished, Kallis walked to a nearby bench, took his gloves off as though nothing had happened and packed his things. He looked around for a few minutes, he tussled his hair, he saw his team-mates chatting to some reporters and he passed by with smiles for all. In those eyes was the same look Kallis has worn throughout his career. The one that says, "I'm still here and I'm still going to be."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kulparkash on November 30, 2012, 6:01 GMT

    Definitely the two greats! but with difference..One who led the team to World Cup wins..other quietly contributing with both bat and ball..One who was verbal on the field..other gracefully adorned the slips..One who will remain in all time Great lists..other who will just be remembered as a gentleman all rounder.. Hope all those who hail the one also realise the contributions of the other!

  • D on November 30, 2012, 2:44 GMT

    Well one of the Q marks against Kallis has been that he is among the "generation of chokers". He was there in THAT 1999 game against Aus, and has been there through the 2003, 2007, and 2011 failures. Last year against NZ he really should have helped win the QF. That said, certainly a top player, and has a chance to overtake SRT's runs and centuries records as well.

  • David on November 30, 2012, 2:34 GMT

    Rasheed Khan on (November 29 2012, 15:33 PM GMT). Hey Caribbean man. Guess who holds the record for the fastest test half-century - 24 balls? Not Chris Gayle, not Afridi, not Viv Richards, or Botham,. Nope - of course its Jacques Kallis. If that is not fast enough for you I guess you'll have to go to sleep.

  • Md. Rakibuzzaman on November 30, 2012, 2:33 GMT

    Kallis is a true legend. He should carry on as long as possible. Unlike Tendulkar and Ponting he is not struggling with form. He is the best batsman in the side and handy bowler. His achievement some how missed attention of the cricket fans. I can remember i saw him in his early days: a batsman only capable on onside. Now he is the best in the world. With batting only second two tendulkar (I believe he will score more test century) and with bowl he is more than allrounder. Love to watch his cool customer...a legend in all aspect of cricket: batting,bowling,fielding,catching..No one is such complete cricketer than him in modern times. Not even Tendulkar,Lara, Ponting.

  • Dummy4 on November 30, 2012, 1:26 GMT

    As much as I love Ponting,and consider him a great, Kallis is and remains a true legend of the game. He is a gentleman and must be considered in the top five of all time players...eva... I don't think Punter can be thought of in that league, but would have if he had bowled as well. For Aussies sake, we don't want Kallis to play today, but for my sake, I want to see him go around one more time over here. Immense respect to them both.

  • Andrew on November 30, 2012, 0:31 GMT

    @Nick636 on (November 29 2012, 11:47 AM GMT) - Kallis is the most PROLIFIC player of all time, but I would not have him in MY all time XI, & he'd be lucky to make the bench too! He is a champion & I find it amazing that he is playing better now than 15yrs ago, he's like an old Rolls Royce engine. So whilst I say he is the most prolific, that is a by-product of matches played. If Sobers had played as many Tests as Kallis, he would of had 13,559 runs & taken 397 wickets. Which is more than Kallis has in both disciplines - not saying this to diminish Kallis, rather place Sobers on a pedestal. Must mention though Sobers would only have 184 catches to Kallis's 190, & I often have said that I think Kallis's slips fielding is severely underrated. He is not what I call a dynamic slipper, but probably the safest catcher I have EVER seen, can ANYONE remember Kallis dropping a catch????

  • Kamala on November 29, 2012, 22:40 GMT

    More than anyone, South Africa need Steyn to hit his straps. As this series has shown Steyn is the only indispensable player in the team - when he underperforms they don't even look like winning. In the past they have success fully defeated Australia and England with Kallis contributing very little. However in those series Steyn has been instrumental in securing victory. I actually think Steyn is the only truly underappreciated guy in the South African team.

  • mo on November 29, 2012, 22:10 GMT

    yeah, ponting was good, but i can't overlook the fact that in 25 test innings in IND, ponting averaged 26 with just one ton! that makes him a "spin track bunny" - as opposed to the oz fans deriding sehwag as a "flat-track bully" [sehwag has 6 test tons in SA, oz, WI and ENG, by the way]... yet ponting is oz's second best batter ever?!? whatever... i was never that impressed with ponting in tests. [[[ODIs are a different thing altogether! yes, he was an ODI champion!]]]

    i have no such reservations about kallis. i am from IND and love sachin - and loved lara when he was around - but kallis is something else! purely as a batter, his average is better than sachin's, and to think that he achieved that while taking all those wickets with an average less than 33 in test cricket is mindblowing!!! ...and kallis did not have any weakness at all, spiin, pace, bounce, he had long mastered them all!!! ...much like sachin and lara. but i rate kallis higher... i mean, objectively, how can you not?!?

  • Jo on November 29, 2012, 22:07 GMT

    Well written article (WWA). Brings beauty and serve as one of best ambassadors representing game Cricket

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2012, 20:18 GMT

    A half-fit Kallis should play ahead of a fully-fit Kleinveldt & Rudolph combined.

  • No featured comments at the moment.