Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day November 11, 2012

Amla, the secret of Kallis' prolific run?

Jacques Kallis has shifted a gear since scoring his first double-century in December 2010. A key factor for this seems to be the presence of Hashim Amla

Australia debutant Rob Quiney would not have had an inkling that some of his thoughts during Australia A's match against the touring South Africans in Sydney would apply to Jacques Kallis. But they do.

After being dismissed for 85, Quiney suggested that scoring a hundred was just a starting point for batsmen these days and that people who mattered looked for "big scores and for people to bat for long periods of time". He meant it in terms of his own quest for selection and probably with the knowledge that previous players have accumulated first-class run tallies into the thousands before they were picked for the national side.

On the other side of the divide is Kallis, a stalwart of the South African game who has achieved so much that some would argue he has nothing left to prove. Yet, that statement applies aptly to him because recently, a hundred has not been enough.

Since his first double-century - remarkably it came after 142 Tests - Kallis has been close to unstoppable. He has scored six hundreds in 13 matches, including another double-ton and three knocks of over 140. It could be a sign of the times, as Quiney hinted, or a maturing of Kallis the batsman, but his want for better scores is insatiable.

Kallis could not quite put his finger on what has brought about this run."I've just been batting really well for the last couple of years," he said. "I've been really comfortable, my strike-rate has been higher and I have had a bit of luck as well."

While there may not be an exact science to identify what brought about Kallis' recent form , two things stand out as clear motivating factors which weren't there in the past. He is either spurred on by team situations which call for his leadership, or by the confidence of the man at the other end of the wicket. Most often that person is Hashim Amla, and he has played a telling role in Kallis' form.

The first instance was demonstrated against India at Newlands in 2010. South Africa faced a series defeat at home, going into the contest at 1-1 against the then No.1 ranked side in the world. At 34 for 2 in the first innings, Kallis walked in and his knock of 161 took them to safety. Although he suffered a side strain in that match, he returned to score another hundred in the second innings and was instrumental in the eventual draw.

His next big score was his second double-century, against Sri Lanka at Newlands. Again, South Africa had a series on the line and were in trouble early at 56 for 2. Kallis had the poise of Alviro Petersen and the audacity of AB de Villiers to partner him through to 224.

At the Oval in July, Amla's role became evident. As he was crafting his way to a record triple-century, Kallis carved out an unbeaten 182. Later, Dale Steyn revealed Kallis' selflessness when he said Kallis had told the dressing room that he didn't want the time to go on to complete a third double-hundred, and would prefer Graeme Smith to declare if it meant the team would win.

The Brisbane hundred is the fourth big score and again it was with Amla alongside him. The pair has now become South Africa's leading partnership of all time which is an indicator that the two are comfortable batting together.

For a lot of his career, Kallis has not had a stable No.3 above him. The revolving door has seen the likes of Gary Kirsten, Daryll Cullinan, Smith, Jacques Rudolph and Boeta Dippenaar pass through it, and none besides Kirsten enjoyed a fruitful pairing with Kallis. Some, like Smith, were there only to bide time. Others, like Dippenaar, were going to be too fragile to establish themselves in the role permanently. With that in mind, Kallis had to become the default repairer in case things went wrong in the rest of the line-up.

His approach had to often steer to the conservative. Once Amla had planted roots into the No.3 spot, Kallis started to show more flamboyance a bit more regularly.

Kallis' centuries are almost perfectly split into two halves: those which came before Amla arrived, and those that were scored after. Kallis played for 11 years before Amla featured in the team and scored 23 centuries in that period. Since Amla cemented his place in the South African side, in 2006, Kallis has scored 21 Test tons.

Amla's presence has contributed to the overall stability of South Africa's line-up. With Smith a long-time opener and De Villiers also building towards a decade as an international cricketer, South Africa's line-up has taken on a familiarly dependable shape.

Some could think of that as predictable, but for Kallis it seems to have created the environment for him to thrive in. He even speaks about his own batting as a team activity, rather than one done in isolation. "We have been performing well together for a few years now," he said at the end of the third day's play. He didn't add that in particular, he has been outdoing everyone else, but we already know that.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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