'It's good to perform against the best', says Kallis
"It's definitely up there with the best," said a contented Kallis, who still maintained that his maiden Test century, against Australia in 1997-98 was his all-time favourite. "England are right up there at the moment and it's good to perform against the best."
Even so, Kallis could not have turned South Africa's innings around had it not been for a concerted effort from the tail, and he was quick to share the praise, in particular with Shaun Pollock who made 43 in a vital 87-run stand for the seventh wicket. "You can't buy that sort of experience at the supermarket," said Kallis. "But the bowlers did their bit as well. There were a lot of bumpers flying around, but they stayed in line, showed a lot of guts and determination, and we can be proud of ourselves."
Though the conditions eased up as the day progressed, it was tough going early on, as England made three quick breakthroughs to put the match back in the balance. "It did do a little this morning," said Kallis. "Our plan was to come out this morning and not lose too many, but unfortunately that didn't happen. But Shaun was magnificent and tomorrow's early session will be crucial."
Kallis acknowledged that England had been badly hampered by the loss of Ashley Giles, who tweaked his back while batting and took no part in the day's play. "It's aways hard when you lose a bowler," he admitted. "It was hard on them and they tired towards the end of day, which was why the morning was crucial. But we stuck to our task well.
"It was hugely important to bounce back after Port Elizabeth," added Kallis. "To go 2-0 down was not an option - it would have been the series over. Maybe we let ourselves down a bit this evening by not quite landing enough balls in the right area, but it could be the wake-up call we needed. If we get a few wickets tomorrow, we could make our lives easier."
It has been a stellar year for Kallis's batting. He has made 1278 runs at 85.20 in 11 Tests, a South African record, including five centuries. "I've worked hard on the technical side of my game, and mentally off the field as well, because I don't premeditate so much now, and play all balls on their merits."
And also, following a traumatic 2003 in which he suffered the death of his father, Kallis admitted the enjoyment of the game had returned as well. "Last year was tough, but I learned a lot and matured a lot as well, which was maybe what I needed."
Matthew Hoggard, by contrast, was a drained man at the close, after being given a long hard day in the field. "That wasn't a 139 wicket, or a 116 for 6 wicket," Hoggard admitted, "but Kallis was tremendous. He's a world-class player at the top of his game.
The England bowlers came in for some criticism for their consistent short-pitched approach, but Hoggard insisted that it was a deliberate tactic. "The short balls were difficult to play, because you didn't know if they were going to come through or stick in the wicket, so that make it difficult to duck and difficult to hook. Obviously, we didn't get any wickets that way until the last one, but I thought with a spinner down, we stuck to our task well."
Giles's absence was crucial, seeing as he would have bowled a good 20 overs, but Hoggard was hopeful he might yet play a part in the second innings. "Ashley's standing up straight again which is an improvement. He's been on the physio's table all day, so with a good night's rest, he'll have a chance of bowling in the second innings."