South Africa v England, 2nd Test, Durban, 2nd day December 27, 2004

Classy Kallis a cut above

Jacques Kallis went for the jugular with a succession of gorgeous cover-drives as he struck a sublime 162 © Getty Images
After their first-Test defeat at Port Elizabeth, the signs were ominous for South Africa. By common consent, England had played way below their potential, but they nonetheless went on to win the match at a canter. Surely, a side whose results had touched perfection all year could not allow the same mistakes to creep through a second game running?

Two factors, however, were sorely lacking from South Africa's first-Test performance. The first was a significant contribution from their tail. Ever since their readmission in the early 1990s, South Africa's lower-order had been among the most untweakable in the world, but at St George's Park, collapses of five for 84 and six for 28 had told a completely different story.

The second missing ingredient was a meaningful contribution from Jacques Kallis. His absence as a bowler severely destabilised the balance of the team, while his first-innings failure (coupled with that of the captain, Graeme Smith) left South Africa playing catch-up all match, and not even a second-innings 61 could rectify that situation. Today, however, Kallis arrived, the tail thrived, and England - who played no better or worse than at Port Elizabeth - were quite unprepared for the upshot.

At the close of yesterday's play, Duncan Fletcher had chastised his players (in his own measured manner) for the recklessness of their approach, suggesting that they might have done better to bide their time and occupy the crease. But there are two sides to the waiting game. There's waiting for the sake of waiting, which is what England palpably failed to do, and then there is waiting for an opportunity, which is what Kallis did to such glorious effect today.

Until he was joined by Makhaya Ntini, the first of the genuine tailenders, Kallis had merely contented himself with loitering - and given that England's highest partnership had been a paltry 26, he didn't exactly need to rush. Once again England bowled too short, and Kallis cut them intermittently behind square for a clutch of help-yourself boundaries. But as Fletcher had suggested after the first day, 250 was a par total on this pitch, and once the obdurate Shaun Pollock and Nicky Boje had been prised from the crease, South Africa were 243 for 8, and England were a swift yorker or two away from a half-decent fightback.

But, with Ashley Giles unable to take the field and hold up an end, England's seam attack was stretched to the limit in the afternoon heat, and Kallis went for the jugular with a succession of gorgeous cover-drives that destroyed England's resolve. This was his fifth century of a breathtaking year, in which he has scored 1278 runs in 11 matches at an average of 85.20, and in a neat role-reversal from Port Elizabeth, it was Ntini and Dale Steyn who helped run England ragged by adding 89 for the last two wickets.

England will not have given up hope of getting something out of this match - and the corresponding fixture from 1999-2000 will make cheerful reading this evening. On that occasion, South Africa were made to follow on after Andrew Caddick's seven-wicket haul, but on the flattest of flat decks, Gary Kirsten made a national-record 275 to ease his team to the safest of draws. But, in order to emulate Kirsten, England first need to relocate that patient approach. Somehow they mislaid it midway through the first Test, and it hasn't been seen since.

Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo. He will be following the England team throughout the Test series in South Africa.